The company Home Chef came about simply because founder Pat Vihtelic wanted to help consumers make the most of their time.
"The inspiration was really about solving a problem my wife and I had. We (and no one) really has the time now to go to the grocery store to shop and to cook," Vihtelic said.
Home Chef, founded in September 2013, is a food delivery service in which fresh ingredients, seasonings and detailed recipe cards are shipped to consumers. Each box has everything a home cook needs to prepare a full meal. Recipes feature everything from meat and seafood selections to vegetarian options and ethnic dishes.
Vihtelic, who grew up in South Bend, Ind., said he always was used to having good meals at home as a kid and he and his wife knew the importance of carrying on a homecooked dinner tradition.
"My mom would have dinner on the table every day," he said. He added his father and grandfather also always had a garden.
A former investment banker who worked long hours, Vihtelic said he was aware of the challenges that others have when they want to prepare and enjoy an excellent meal but just don't have the time to do it.
And while the meals offered through Home Chef are fairly easy to prepare, he said he didn't want them to be mundane and unexciting meals. The recipes developed through the company are diverse and include dishes such as Shrimp and Smoky Bacon Carbonara, Chimichurri Pork Chops, Japanese Chicken Yakitori, Beef and Sherry Steak Diane and much more.
Home Chef's culinary director/executive chef Justin Paruszkiewicz began working with Home Chef in November 2013. He said he was the first full-time employee of the company.
"It was just me and Pat when it started," he said.
Paruszkiewicz, who was born in Harvey and grew up in Dyer, is a graduate of The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. He also attended Ball State University in Muncie. The chef/culinary director regularly spends time in the company kitchen developing recipes for Home Chef.
"I cook Mondays through Wednesdays," he said, adding that later in the week he's busy doing a variety of office work from writing recipes and working on calorie counting to ordering ingredients and other tasks.
"I have a hand in a little bit of everything," Paruszkiewicz said.
According to the culinary director, many people have taken an interest in Home Chef.
"People are busy these days. And they're always looking for a way to make their lives easier."
The company's headquarters have been in the West Loop since its beginning and recently it's moved to the Midway Airport area of Chicago.
Paruszkiewicz said the company has about 500 recipes in its arsenal and he's come up with about 300 of them personally. There are five other chefs and guest chefs who develop recipes for Home Chef.
The recipes reflect many eating habits and preferences and include meals for those on special diets, seafood fans, meat and potato fans and more.
Vihtelic said preparing the meals in your own home kitchen also helps consumers understand what's going into their food.
Vihtelic said it's wonderful to see that customers have taken an interest in the service proving there are many people out there who still want to be home and enjoy homecooked meals with family and friends.
"It has far exceeded my expectations in terms of growth," he said. "It's a solution that makes sense for a lot of people."
Vihtelic said he's focused on his customers and their wants and needs.
"Our biggest goal is bringing people back to the dinner table."
Home Chef currently delivers to 30 states. Visit homechef.com to learn more about the ordering process, prices, variety of meals and other information.