Beyond the kitchen

Personal chef Jason McClearen has created a multifaceted food business.
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Jason McClearen knows how to hustle. The Grand Rapids Community College Secchia Institute for Culinary Education graduate said after spending time in restaurant kitchens around town, he quickly knew that wasn’t the career for him.

Instead, he paired his love for cooking with entrepreneurship and started his own business. “What started out as a small personal chef business with a couple of clients has turned into a full-blown catering, personal chef and fully licensed mobile kitchen (aka food truck/trailer),” he said.

His business, The Everyday Chef and Wife, tackles everything from family meals and plated dinner parties for six to 12 guests, to large weddings and corporate events.

McClearen’s vision is to “bring people back around the dinner table, with food that impacts an experience to remember.”

“Food brings people together, and we’re all about community,” he said. “I get an emotional high when I see the joy on someone’s face when they’re eating something I just created and it resonates with them.”

Because he offers personal chef services, McClearen has the opportunity to connect with clients on a more personal level, too.

“I love teaching and helping people. If I can help out with either just figuring out what ‘diet’ will work best for them, recipes to inspire them, or the full service, that gives me incredible satisfaction,” he said.

McClearen explained that a personal chef is different from a private chef. “A private chef is contracted to a family and is there morning, noon and night to make their meals. A personal chef is someone you hire to make a certain amount of meals, either in your home or as a drop-off service.”

“What started out as a small personal chef business with a couple clients has turned into a full-blown catering, personal chef and fully licensed mobile kitchen (aka food truck/trailer).”
Jason McClearen

McClearen said clients come to him for a plethora of reasons, but the main one is they simply don’t want to cook but they do want healthy meals they can enjoy around the dinner table “without the hassle of preparing the meal themselves.”

He added, “I’ve had multiple clients come across because someone bought them a couple of weeks’ worth of meals when they were going through a more difficult time, clients who are consistent and have been with us for years, and clients who hire us to do ‘fill-in’ meals. They’ll usually come around every month or two to get a refill.

“We create a custom menu for every client,” he explained. “After filling out a client assessment form, we figure out their food restrictions (if any), their likes and dislikes, and give them a list of food to choose from. They pick seven different options that we make fresh, from scratch, package it up and deliver it to them. Our usual package will feed a family of four for about two weeks.”

McClearen is classically trained in French and American-style cooking, but he said an internship with the company behind the “Forks Over Knives” documentary had a big impact on him. That documentary was focused on plant-based and gluten-free lifestyles.

McClearen said the biggest challenge his business faces is not having a physical location, which makes marketing the service a bit of a challenge.

“You don’t have a physical place where people can see you and be reminded of your presence every day, like most restaurants,” he said.

And COVID-19 has created additional challenges. “We’ve had multiple events cancel, but we have an incredible team that are currently thinking up creative and fun ways to drive the business,” he said. “We are launching a new avenue into our business with what we call our Chef CSA Meals.

“It’s a looser form of our personal chef package, but where people can order the bulk meals we’re preparing that week and either have it delivered straight to their home for a small fee or come pick it up. This is just one thing we’re putting in place.” He said to keep an eye on the company’s Facebook page for more information on this service.

Visit theeverydaychefandwife.com and follow the business’ social media accounts for daily updates, behind the scenes action and to learn more.

Family affair

The McClearen family Courtesy Kate McClearen

As the name of the company implies, The Everyday Chef and Wife is a family business. Jason McClearen’s wife Kate helps out with branding and marketing, and even their son is ready to get in on the action in the kitchen.

“Our son is 8 years old and is desperate to help out in the kitchen. Especially during the quarantine; we’ve used it as a source of schooling,” he said. ‘He’s been helping make bread since he was two and can now make his own cookies from scratch. We try to have them help wherever we can.”

When he and his family go out to eat, McClearen said burgers are their first choice. “My wife and I absolutely love burgers. We are up for a great burger joint, rather than a 5-star dining experience — but we love those, too,” he said.

The couple also enjoys the Grand Rapids restaurant scene. “I think one of the best-kept secrets is the culinary restaurant at GRCC, but I feel like that’s a biased answer since that’s my alma mater.” When pressed to name his top five restaurants, he gave a nod to Butchers Union, 7 Monks Taproom, Green Well, The Winchester and The Filling Station.

“Our guilty pleasure is The Filling Station because they have the best hand-dipped onion rings in town — though I think Carver’s at the Downtown Market might have the best burger in town. Prove us wrong.”

And, when he cooks at home, McClearen turns to his French pot roast with port cream sauce or his wife’s mother’s recipe for chicken linguini with peanut sauce.

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