The Foodsmith story began about 5 years ago shortly after I left what had, to that point, been my dream job, as the Chef and Foodservice Director of Santa Cruz City Schools K-12 public school system. I had been hired to bring healthier local and scratch cooked meals to the cafeterias of the public schools in Santa Cruz. I had been the Chef of the University of California Santa Cruz for the prior 5 years, but the allure of helping kids get access to healthy fresh food and make good food and health choices was a no brainer. In a few weeks my amazing lunch ladies and I were dusting off unused kitchen equipment, boiling water for pasta and rice, soaking beans overnight to cook from scratch the next day, and in less than 3 months we were cooking almost everything from scratch, two and half years ahead of schedule. I started a litany of new programs including free breakfast in the classroom, after school snack and supper programs, salad bars in every school, expanded menu choices, Meatless Mondays, Friday "Backpack" programs where we sent families home with bags of fresh food and produce on Fridays complete with a cooking class led by me on how to cook and utilize everything in the bag. All this while taking a program budgeted to lose $500,000.00 per year to break even in 3 years, saving the school District over $1 million. (See! Fresh food can be cheaper than frozen junk food!!!) It was at these Friday afternoon cooking classes that the idea for Foodsmith was born. I loved the classes, sharing my tips and techniques to utilize everything in the food bag, but I kept hearing the same things from families, that they didn't have the time, that it didn't turn out the same, or that they just wished I could cook for them the same as I did for all the kids during the school day. And I thought to myself, maybe I can!
I cashed in my retirement savings (huge tax penalty, so don't do it unless you're sure it's a winning idea- I was almost very wrong about mine!) After several different attempts and business model ideas, and watching my retirement savings and investment dwindle to just $900, We settled on the current home delivery model, and slowly built up to the amazing team we have now at Foodsmith. For months, I took the orders manually, cooked everything, did all the dishes (be glad you don't have to do dishes for 200 people every night!) and woke up early to make the deliveries myself. I was adamant about helping kids so we donated meals to kids at the Digital Nest and UCSC all while barely breaking even, but I was not willing to sacrifice my dream- the Foodsmith values were and remain non-negotiable. And slowly we built a bigger customer base purely by word of mouth, built a new website, expanded our kitchen extensively, and hired a fantastic team of cooks, drivers and leaders, all mod whom BELIEVE in our mission to help people eat better, live happier longer lives, and spend more time doing things they love, not cleaning dishes! Thanks to the feedback and support of our early customers, and our great team, we have grown to over 1500 customers delivering 4,000 to 5,000 delicious and healthy Foodsmith meals every week. And even better, we have now donated over 25,000 meals to kids and families in need. There's a lot of stuff I left out, like sleeping on towels in the office because I finished cooking at 2:00am and had to start deliveries at 4:00am, but it was all worth it. And I have a short memory and no rear view mirror- we will continue to push the envelope of fresh meal preparation, and access to truly healthy food for those in need. We think the best is is yet to come!