Even if you like to cook (and I do), finding the time, energy, and motivation to do so can be difficult to come by. So when I came across the new business Cooking for Friends, I was intrigued. The business was created by Kristen Joyce Mider, a mother of three who lives in Cranford and has always loved to cook. Kristen has never been professionally trained, though she’s taken cooking classes and learned a lot cooking at her mother’s side. The pictures of her family meals received such positive feedback on Facebook that she began to wonder if she could make something out of her passion. With the encouragement of her husband and friends, Kristen launched Cooking for Friends this past May.
The concept of Cooking for Friends is simple enough. Kristen will act as the personal chef for an event, bringing all of the ingredients and supplies to someone’s house, cooking in their kitchen, and then cleaning up at the end of the event. Kristen’s services provide the hosts with both delicious food and the chance to talk and mingle with their guests. Though it was only started a few months ago, Cooking for Friends’ events have already included a Cinco de Mayo party, a Surf and Turf dinner party, and the Cranford Newcomers Club year-end party for 55 people. Kristen has also found a willing customer base among new moms, who hire her to cook up a week’s worth of meals in their own kitchen. She works closely with all of her customers to figure out a menu that suits their event and works around any allergies or food restrictions.
The level of detail and excitement Kristen has for cooking translates into the meals she feeds her family too. She cooks nearly every night, often setting aside time to plan her menu for the week and keeping track of any meals that she considers “family favorites.” In the summer months she takes full advantage of local produce with frequent stops at Dreyer Farms. Summer meals are often based around seafood, with pan-seared scallops over risotto and grilled fish or shrimp among her favorites. To those parents who are often overwhelmed by the time and energy it takes to cook (including myself), Kristen recommends menu planning and taking the time on Sunday to do prep work. She also has a number of sources she turns to for inspiration, including the NY Times cooking section, the popular website smitten kitchen, cookbooks by Mario Batali, Melissa Clark, and Mark Bittman, as well as the cookbook Olives, Lemon, & Za’atar by Rawia Bashura, a NYC chef and close friend of Kristen’s.
Looking ahead, Kristen already has jobs lined up for the fall. Her current goal is to have something planned every few weeks and, as she puts it, “fit work into my family, not the other way around.” Down the road she would love to have a small storefront where people can stop in and grab something fresh, healthy and delicious to bring home. There’s no doubt in my mind that before long before people will be lining up to have Cooking for Friends make their next party a delicious and stress-free event.
Cooking for Friends