As the owner of the Chefs for Seniors franchise in Volusia and Flagler counties, Mark St.Clair prepares meals for senior citizens. But while programs like Meals on Wheels deliver meals to people's homes, St.Clair delivers the chef.
St.Clair buys the groceries, brings them to his clients' homes and cooks four different meals, a total of 14 to 16 servings, in their kitchens.
"It's quite a unique service," said St.Clair, 60. "I was actually looking for a business plan online to do a personal chef business and Chefs for Seniors kept coming up. They're amazing people. I put together a business plan for them and after several months I got the franchise."
St.Clair opened his business in June. He has several clients in the Palm Coast and Ormond Beach areas. He starts with a free consultation in people's homes, discussing dietary needs, health restrictions and tastes and planning a menu.
"We focus on their big meal of the day," St.Clair said. "The concept is to keep them healthy. Nutritious, quality food does in fact help seniors stay in their homes longer."
St.Clair, who has a ServeSafe certification, charges $149 in addition to the cost of groceries for his typical service which provides meals for two for about one week or meals for one for about two weeks.
He brings over the groceries and his own equipment and spends about two and a half hours in the home. He packages and labels the meals with heating instructions and stores them in his client's freezer and refrigerator.
He offers a $20 discount for each of the first two services if a client commits to two services because often adjustments are made after the first service based on their tastes.
St.Clair said some of his clients are 55 and others are 95. Some love to chat while he cooks, some don't. For some, the socialization is as important as the meals themselves, he said. People use the service for different reasons.
"Some people, like one gentleman whose wife passed away, just have never cooked," St.Clair said. "Some just can't get out."
Barrett Allman and his son, Nathan Allman, began Chefs for Seniors in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. The company now has 60 franchises nationwide, in addition to St.Clair's.
St.Clair does not have professional training as a chef but said this is the job he was meant to do.
"My mom was a wonderful cook, and that sparked my love for cooking," he said. "I love cooking and I love helping people out. I don't feel like I'm working."
St.Clair plans to hire two additional chefs as his business expands.
"They don't need to be trained chefs," he said. "They just need to love cooking, enjoy seniors and be personable."