CHICO — Mary Chin’s farm-to-table food delivery service called My Ovens Meals started with a now-defunct blog called Life of Chef Mom that she started doing for fun.
Chin, a professionally trained chef who has worked at a Michelin restaurant in Napa Valley and other restaurants in the Bay Area, is originally from Novato. She launched My Ovens Meals in 2017. She had previously toyed with gluten-free meals, diets and lifestyles. Her friends pushed her to start the business. She attended culinary school in a junior college program in Santa Rosa.
Chin attended Chico State University between 2003 and 2006, where she met her husband, but struggled with not knowing what she wanted to do in life. She has always loved cooking, so she decided to go to cooking school and graduated, then moved back to Chico in 2013 to start her family.
His business was greatly affected by the campfire. She has lost many clients in Paradise. Due to the many delivery services that provided the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to do something different. Her healthy options delivery service has exploded and now she has a niche.
It employs four people and delivers meals to customers in Butte County including Chico, Oroville, Paradise and Durham.
She developed recipes and started taking pictures to put on her Instagram account.
“We eat with our eyes,” Chin said.
Chin’s philosophy for attracting new customers is rooted in keeping its social media presence attractive and aesthetically pleasing. She recruited a friend to take professional photos of her delivery meals to start transforming her brand on Instagram and Facebook.
Business has picked up since the start of the pandemic. Chin said she was lucky to partner with the Great Plates company for a month. Great Plates provides breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week to seniors in approved program areas. Seniors received healthy meals and did not have to be exposed to COVID-19.
All Chin meals are gluten and soy free and do not use refined sugars. She also delivered fresh meals with diet options including paleo, keto, sugar-free, and dairy-free. For keto folks, she makes sweet or savory fresh scones. One of his most popular dishes is the Chicken Coconut Curry Meatballs, served over cauliflower rice. The meatballs contain chicken, cilantro, carrots, onions and lime juice.
“We struggled at first, but now there’s a flow,” Chin said. “The company will be five years old in July.”
Chin has cookbooks and tries to provide a variety of fresh, seasonal dishes. Main dishes are priced at $13.99. For a breakfast, the meals increase from $5 to $10. It also offers a four-meal pack for $55, and to purchase a subscription, the price is $62 for a full week of meals with five main courses.
Chin and his team deliver 30-40 orders per week. She says there is no minimum price requirement but she charges a delivery fee.
She sells meals at the Chico Certified Farmers Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Customers have between Tuesday and Friday to place an order, then deliveries are made on Monday.
Meals are chilled and delivered at the right temperature to customers’ doorsteps. My ovens Meals are prepared in a certified commissioner’s kitchen approved by the health department, Chin said.
She has a five-year-old and an eight-year-old who have also captured the culinary buzz. They all cook together and the children have their own sets of knives.
“They’re great little prep cooks,” Chin said. “We make it fun.”
Chin said it was sometimes difficult to juggle her professional and personal life. Her husband works in a hospital 12 hours a day from Tuesday to Thursday. Fortunately with her job, she is there during the day for her children. She does groceries during the day while the kids are at school and plans meals and works on recipes. When her children come home from school for the day, she does their homework and plays sports with them. Her husband spends time with the children on weekends while she cooks. Its business model is as locally sourced as possible. When shopping at farmers’ markets, she adds vegetables and fresh produce to meals.
The clientele is different at farmers’ markets than delivery customers, Chin said. At the Saturday market, they shop, socialize and buy fresh flowers.
She has a different clientele that doesn’t order online and buys what’s on the menu. She sells acai and chia pudding parfaits in the markets and hot pho. To make pho soup, chicken broth is slowly roasted and cooked on the stovetop for 24 hours. Then she adds local pork belly, onions and radishes, micro-vegetables and boiled eggs.
“Customers can sip and eat while shopping at the market,” Chin said. “They have a very good option in the markets. They can shop around and see what’s in season. Everything compliments the soup and noodles.
Chin and his staff use the same recipes and guidelines and have their hands in the pots. The preparation of the meals must be consistent with 30 dishes having to turn out to be identical.
“Consistency and quality are important,” Chin said.
Chin’s business has grown in number thanks to social media. It does not advertise in local magazines and newspapers. Instagram makes it easy to advertise food.
“When food is beautifully presented, we recognize it as a delicious meal, and posting photos and videos on Instagram and Facebook of the recipes we prepare is how we show it,” Chin said. “As a busy mom and business owner, I know how hard it is to have a healthy dinner on the table every night. Facebook and Instagram stories allow me to keep my customers up to date with new recipes, so that they can make the same recipes for their family at home.
Chin’s Instagram account is @myovensmeals and her Facebook account is also called My Ovens Meals and her website is www.myovensmeals.com.