Beloved-On the Go
For chef Bryan Sparks, cooking isn’t just preparing food—it’s about creating memories. When restaurants shut down due to Covid-19 precautions, Sparks realized he needed to make a professional shift that would provide more work-life balance so he could keep sharing moments with his 2 1/2-year-old.
“I spent a good chunk of that quarantine with my daughter six days a week, which is something that I hadn’t been able to do in the past,” he says. “I left quarantine realizing I needed to do something that was more than just work, work, work.”
The result? Beloved-On the Go, a meal-delivery service that provides chef-driven, health-conscious meals to customers’ doorsteps every week. Sparks changes up the menu based on what’s in season and available from local farmers, but offerings always include individual breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that are ready to be heated and enjoyed, as well as proteins and sides in bulk that can be mixed and matched to create meals. Sparks also accommodates dietary and allergy needs.
Since Beloved launched in March, it’s built up a base of loyal customers who order regularly. While the initial success may have been the result of people clamoring to fill the void for restaurant-quality food created by safety concerns, Sparks posits it may also indicate a shift.
“Throughout the pandemic, I think people have reshaped their priorities, and the traditional ‘go to work, come home, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, go to bed’ model doesn’t exist anymore,” he explains. “I think people are trying to live in the moment a little bit more fully, and our service allows you to do that while still feeling like you’re getting that kind of cherished dining-room table experience without having to do the dishes afterward or clean up the sauté pans.”
Mitch Fagan has been a pasta fan his whole life. In high school, he started experimenting with making fresh pasta by hand, and in college, he got even more serious about cooking, opening a restaurant in his apartment at one point.
Now a third-year medical student, Fagan decompresses by cooking every night—and not just for himself. After fielding requests from friends, his pasta creations are available for delivery via Zero Zero, a business he launched with his girlfriend, Leah Steinberg, in early May.
The company is named for the finely ground Italian flour traditionally used to make pasta, and each week, the couple crafts a different variety sold by the serving and delivered fresh—or in the case of stuffed pastas, individually quick frozen—to customers around the KC metro on Thursdays. Zero Zero also sends out a recipe pairing the pasta with a regional sauce and wine suggestion as well as an email newsletter to help provide some educational context.
Zero Zero’s first featured noodle was pappardelle, but Fagan says the goal is ultimately to introduce customers to less familiar shapes and hyper-regional offerings he had a chance to discover during a 2019 trip to Italy. That includes noodles such as scialatelli, a short, thick pasta that originates from Amalfi. Closer to home, he admires local restaurants such as Farina, Antler Room, and Corvino.
“They all make incredible, incredible homemade pastas and those have really inspired me,” Fagan says.
Balancing medical school and a side hustle making pasta might seem like a tall order, but Fagan seems unphased, noting that his current schedule typically has him working traditional hours. The bigger challenge may be keeping up with orders. Fagan and Steinberg set a goal of delivering 20-25 orders each week at the six-month mark; less than a month after launching, they found themselves way beyond that.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” he admits. “We’re growing quickly.”
More Than a Meal
Being a new parent is tough. But for Mitch and Emmalyn Case, the stress of first-time parenthood was compounded by Emmalyn’s preeclampsia, which necessitated a C-Section and left her with high blood pressure after their son’s birth.
Friends and family helped out immediately after the baby was born, but it was in the months that followed that the family struggled.
“We were blessed to have friends who dropped off really simple ingredients, and honestly, I thought that they had bought those from some sort of meal-kit service,” Mitch recalls. “When I went to them to ask where I could buy some more, they said, ‘Well, we just kind of made these ourselves.’”
That experience inspired the couple to create More Than a Meal, a company that allows customers to send meal kits with slow cooker or Instant Pot-ready ingredients to people in need of support. Meals can be purchased by companies, who make up a large portion of More Than a Meal’s client base, as well as individuals. Customers choose how many meals to send and then provide contact information for the recipient, who is prompted to choose their meals and preferred delivery day and time.
Ingredients for dishes like Southwest quinoa chili and beef teriyaki with broccoli and pineapple are prepped by the catering company More Than a Meal works with, Terrace Catering, packaged and dropped off at the recipient’s selected time. Each kit includes three to four servings, which usually feeds two adults and a kid, along with a personalized, handwritten note.
Seeing the love conveyed through those messages is one of the most rewarding parts of the business for Mitch, who views them as a sign that the meals delivered are living up to the company’s name.
“It truly is more than just food to sustain somebody,” he says. “It’s taking care of somebody that you value most.”
Kravin’ It KC Kitchen
Kravin’ It KC Kitchen is far from your typical catering operation. The brainchild of chef Bradley Gilmore, his wife, Brittany Socha Gilmore, and longtime collaborator chef, Brandon West, Kravin’ It was born out of the trio’s desire to serve chef-driven meals without sacrificing their lives (not to mention holidays and weekends) to the service industry.
To ensure the business was able to provide that balance, Kravin’ It offers a wide range of options, including catering packages and boxed lunches, heat-and-eat family meals delivered twice per week, and specialized food packages for holidays and events. It was during Thanksgiving last year that the company made its first big push, ultimately selling 150 family feasts.
“We sold so many meals that the kitchen I had wasn’t big enough to prep it in, so I called my buddies who are the chefs at Sporting KC, and we got to use the Sporting KC kitchen to launch this Kravin’ It KC delivery program with heat-and-eat meals,” Bradley recalls.
Now Kravin’ runs out of its own kitchen creating dishes designed to delight. Options include the Meals in Minutes menu, which features fan favorites, such as jerk chicken thighs with black-eyed peas, mustard greens, and creole tomato sauce; and Klean Eats, a more health-focused lineup boasting soups, salads, grain bowls, and more.
So far, Kravin’ It has found success with its diverse array of offerings, but the company isn’t done yet. Earlier this summer, it launched a virtual food hall, bringing together ten of its own concepts, each serving unique dishes, under one name where guests can order any of the available items. And the Gilmores and West are considering other ideas to keep growing.
“We’re not just going to be a meal delivery service,” Bradley says. “We’re going to be a whole package of all kinds of great food delivered, served any which way.”
As Covid-19 upended the food service industry, Mike Archibald had a secure job as the production manager at Alchemy Coffee & Bake House in Lawrence. But despite his privileged position, Archibald felt something was off. He was in search of a creative outlet when his main importing partner got in touch about an experimental batch of beans too small and expensive to be the right fit for Alchemy. Archibald bought them himself and sold them via his personal Instagram in two days.
That experience led him to start Yippee Café, what he describes as a “a really zany, bright-colored, over-designed subscription service that uses the color palette of country music to celebrate cool producers and fun coffee.”
Archibald buys green coffee from producers around the world, roasts the beans, packages them and ships the coffee to subscribers around the U.S. In addition to connecting people with a product they likely wouldn’t otherwise find, Archibald also considers himself an evangelist for producers he highlights. One of his favorites? The Peralta family, which operates a handful of farms in Nicaragua.
Since launching Yippee Café in July 2020, Archibald left his job at Alchemy to focus on the business fulltime. He now roasts roughly 100 pounds of coffee each month, and Yippee’s coffee is served at Front Range Coffeehouse & Provisions in Fairway, as well as at John Brown’s Underground and Mass St. Fish House & Raw Bar in Lawrence.
A year in, Archibald admits he’s till figuring out how to run Yippee Café as a business—but he also likes putting the customer experience ahead of profit margins.
“I want it to be like you’re spending $20 on something that when you open it, when you brew it, there’s no question that this thing has value,” he explains. “Instantly, without reading the information that I put on the bag, without being sold that this coffee is good, your interaction with it immediately is like, ‘Damn, this is really unique and cool.’”