Undaunted by the shuttering off her college and internship, Clare Ward opens at-home cooking and food delivery business.
By Lisa Parrish, GMC Editor
What does a student do when her culinary college is shuttered, her classes are moved online and her summer internship is canceled? Begin a new culinary business from her parents’ Atlanta kitchen, of course. Read how Clare Ward, a student from Nicholls State University’s Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, opened Clare’s Cooking Company eight weeks ago and how the cooking and food delivery business is thriving.
Ward takes customer orders from a set menu each week delivered via email. The newsletter not only lists the available items, including homemade pasta and sauces, but also desserts. She offers Italian dishes from regions in the north to the south. In each newsletter, Ward includes an area history and appropriate wine pairings. She delivers her homemade items on Saturday and Sunday.
Read more about Ward's cooking and food delivery business:
Has your customer base grown since opening?
Yes, it has grown significantly. I started it off selling to about three neighbors and it has grown to 31 customers around the Atlanta suburbs with 45 people who have requested to receive newsletters each week. I have not advertised very much either, just so I don't become overwhelmed.
How do you decide what food will be offered each week?
I have a base menu of two kids of pastas, four sauces and brownies which I offer every week. Additionally, I have been fulfilling special requests including layered sweet potato cake, key lime pie, golf-themed cupcakes and various cookies. In the last few weeks, I have started focusing on different regions and basing my weekly specials upon the selected area. I also include a history of the region and wine pairing suggestions. I started with Piedmont, a northern region in Italy, in which my weekly specials were Agnolotti and Torta di Nocciole. The following week, I moved to a region slightly southwest to Liguria. I focused mainly on its capital, Genoa with specials of Pesto alla Genovese, Pesto Bianco and Pesto Polpette. Now I plan to continue on down the boot of Italy region by region.
Where do you cook?
I had to move back home to Atlanta because of Covid-19 so I am cooking out of my parents' kitchen.
What's the best part of this for you?
The best part for me are: menu research, including honing in on the artisan craftsmanship that is homemade pasta and sauces; and connecting with people during these crazy times. I have absolutely loved doing research into each region and attempting to emerge myself into the culture there. Also, I have loved learning a more hands-on side of running a food business. Additionally, I am a serious people/family person, so it has been awesome to connect with people through my food even during the quarantine. It's been really gratifying to see my food become part of people's weekly family dinners!
What's been the most challenging aspect?
The most challenging thing has probably been time management. It is something I have always struggled with. It’s been challenging deciding when I need to do things when I'm the boss. This has been especially difficult as I have finished out the semester remotely and have been nannying while starting this business. However, juggling these three endeavors has forced me to manage my time better.
Is anyone working with you? If so, who?
My mom helps me some with packaging and delivery. I also have a few neighbors, who are regular customers, that I use as a sounding board for new ideas.
What’s been a surprise for you?
The one big surprise is that I love running a business- determining prices, menu items, menu engineering, etc. as much as I love being in the kitchen!
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