by John S. Davis
Part of an occasional series of articles profiling small businesses founded by clients of Mentor Capital. Fond memories of the love and care her mother put into cooking for her Italian-American family set Lynne Kern on a path toward founding her own small business. About 18 months ago Lynne (formerly Segreti), with three young children at home and an urge to get back to work, started Aroma Home Cooked Meals. She works as a personal chef for time-pressed families who appreciate the quality and nutrition of meals made from scratch, in the convenience of their own homes. “I’ve talked with so many other moms who are stay-at-home, who want to be working but want the freedom and flexibility to be there for their kids. I thought: I’m always in the kitchen, I love to bake and I love to cook, I wish I could think of something to do with cooking. One of my friends said, ‘You should be a personal chef!’ It sounded fascinating to me.” Lynne researched the field and found the Culinary Business Academy, which shows people how to transform their love of cooking into a business. She talked it over with her husband, Charlie, and signed up for a week-long course in Atlanta, Ga.
The curriculum focused less on developing culinary skills (it’s assumed students already know how to cook) than on the business side. Topics included types of business entities, food safety, food handling, marketing and advertising. When she got home she was charged up and ready to get started. “I plan a menu for the client,” Lynne said. “A menu consists of five entrees and two to four sides, four portions each, and is approved in advance. The day before, I buy everything I need. On cooking day I show up at their house, bring in the groceries and my own utensils, set up in the kitchen, create the five meals and sides, package, label, leave heating instructions, clean up and leave.” Families who hire Lynne may have something special going on (guests coming in, a wedding to plan) or may be generally busy and need her services on a continuing basis. “I create custom menus for the family,” Lynne said. “They might say, ‘My favorite thing is my grandma’s spaghetti sauce, but I never have time to make it.’ I say, “Well give me the recipe and I’ll make it for you.” When the three children, Charlie, Emma and Ethan, return to school in the fall, Lynne will have more time to devote to cooking. She’s thinking about broadening Aroma’s offerings to include a take-out service – still with the same home-cooked quality but for people who might not want to commit to five meals. Lynne says her love of cooking came from her mom, Romilda (“Aroma” is a play on Romilda’s nickname, “Ro”), a first-generation immigrant from Italy. “She was a phenomenal cook. She always said a love of cooking was born into her. “I grew up in a family where food was an expression of love. I’m trying to express that in my family, and for my clients, too.”
Lynne can be reached at 630-833-9983.