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Dinner Is Done–Three Local Chefs Make Life Easier

With today’s busy lifestyles, dinner sometimes takes a backseat to work, long commutes, and kids’ activity schedules. When UberEats suddenly becomes the most-used app on your phone, and your favorite pizzeria is on speed dial, perhaps it’s time to consider one of the many local, chef-driven meal delivery services. Fully prepared meals that require only simple heating, delivered right to your doorstep, are just a click away. Take the stress out of dinnertime with one of these locally based companies.

Danielle Munk started her culinary career as the head chef at a retirement home for Catholic priests, but it was at a series of baby showers where the idea for her Wilton-based business was born. Chef Danielle became known for the “freezer meals” she gives as gifts to the moms-to-be, and with the encouragement of friends and family, she created Dinner is at the Door in 2016. “Once my kids were born, I needed something more flexible,” she explains. The menu changes weekly and is posted on her Dinner Is at the Door Facebook page every Friday. Clients order three to five meals to be delivered to their home the following Friday. All meals arrive fully prepared and frozen, ready to stock your freezer for the week. Simple directions to heat in the oven, stove-top, or grill are included. Chef Danielle’s slow cooker meals are among the most popular, and are made to dump and go. “I love knowing that people are having a home-cooked meal instead of takeout or processed foods,” she says. “I want them to be able to get home from work, or after-school activities, or wherever they have been, and be able to make dinner for their family in around 30 minutes.”

Simply Local is the creation of French Culinary Institute trained chef Lauren Peden, who has owned Simply Delicious Catering (simplydeliciousCT.com) in Norwalk since 2009. “We started Simply Local just over three years ago,” says Chef Lauren. “I learned that there is a great need for busy families to have a healthy alternative for dinner besides the traditional, and often less nutritious, takeout.” The menu varies weekly and is published each Sunday. Clients place orders online and choose their delivery day. Soups, salads, sides, entrées, baked goods, and weekend entertaining platters are all available, as well as kid-friendly options and single-serve lunch dishes. “Our menus are seasonal, and we create recipes based on what is available at the local farmers’ market,” Chef Lauren explains. “We work closely with the farmers at the Westport Farmers’ Market, and we always try to include vegetarian options, along with gluten- and dairy-free options in our weekly menu.” Chef Lauren works closely with her mom, Tracy, who is the baker of the operation. “There is some serious love in the items she prepares.” It is clear that Simply Local is a labor of love for the mother-daughter duo: “I love being able to offer a healthier fresh alternative to the traditional takeout. I love our endlessly changing menu; it keeps things interesting,” says Lauren.

Fairfielder Tina Connelly began her career as a culinary student at Johnson and Wales University, and worked as a private chef during college. She later moved into catering, and cooked for a few dinner parties at the home of Ron Howard. There, she got to know some of his friends, who asked if they could hire her to create meals for their families. In 2000, she launched Tina’s Gourmet Kitchen (tinasgourmetkitchen.com) which now delivers all over Fairfield County and parts of Westchester County. “The fact that families gather around the dinner table and have face time eating my dinners,” she says, “there’s nothing better.” Tina posts a new weekly menu to her website every Friday, and delivers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition to two full meals each week, clients can order “extras” like soups, salads, quesadillas, quiches, and even desserts. “My food is clean and healthy, with only fresh organic ingredients, when at all possible,” she explains. As a mom of two boys, she is also careful to make sure the meals are family-friendly.

Pricing ranges from approximately $25 to $60 per meal for a family of four, depending on the entrée and any included side dishes. All the companies deliver throughout Fairfield County, and some have a minimal delivery charge and/or food minimum. Whether you work, have busy kids, or just don’t like to cook, these meal delivery services can be game-changers.

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