Chef Abby Randall has been busy. From working at a catering business, as a personal chef and more recently, in her own kitchen and at her own meal delivery service, The Tomato Vine, she jokes that her eyes are bigger than her stomach.
“My background is in the kitchen,” she says. Her mother had a farm-to-table restaurant when she was a teenager, before it was a popular trend. All the food came from within 20 miles of the building itself, and everything was made from scratch. “It was different, you could taste it,” she says.
Randall later moved on to work as a sous chef at a corporate restaurant, went to culinary school and started working in catering, but always felt the tug on her heart for a different approach to healthy food and eating. In 2012, she quit her catering job and began cooking for people in their homes.
Randall retained her mother’s farm-to-table approach cooking three or four meals for a family each week, and business began growing. Before she knew it, she was teaching cooking classes, running a meal delivery and catering service and working on opening a small cafe out of her own kitchen. But it was a long process to get there.
“That was a challenge,” she says. It was a tough decision to quit her job, and the business had its rough days, but ultimately her passion shines through. “Once something is really in your heart, that’s the deciding factor. There wasn’t much going back from there.”
Randall’s assistant chef, Kevin Relf, joined the business after seeking advice on opening his own meal delivery service, and found that they shared a passion for healthy food and meal services. Randall says Relf has played a key part in expanding the business, and Relf appreciates Randall’s approach to cooking.
“Abby is happy when she’s cooking. She has a genuine love for good healthy food, and using that as a vehicle to help people eat healthy and live better lives,” Relf says. “Her food speaks for itself by sourcing the best quality, locally-grown ingredients, and really letting them shine through in each dish.”
Three years in the making, The Tomato Vine has branched out since its opening and will continue to grow. Randall prepares a weekly menu and delivers farm-to-table meals for families in glassware and reusable containers to reduce the amount of waste and to retain freshness. Clients can go online and order as many meals as they want each week, and can choose from gluten-free and vegetarian options or even prepared food to cook themselves. “It’s all local and organic, and I don’t know very many other services that offer that quality,” she says, although her services don’t come with the large price tag that some may expect. “That’s one of the myths that I’m trying to dispel, that personal chefs are for rich people. For the organic prices, it’s actually a great deal.”
Randall’s biggest success comes when her clients say they had time to spend with their kids this week because of the healthy farm-to-table meal they had delivered by The Tomato Vine. There will always be a restaurant industry, she says, but she is out to change the way people experience healthy food.
“It used to be a special occasion going out to eat, and not just because we’re hungry,” Randall says. “It becomes a headache when it’s supposed to be a fun occasion. It’s time for a change, time to reclaim the family table. I hope I can offer a better solution for eating a healthy meal at home.”