Slow Chicagoan Profile : Lisa Santos of Southport Grocery & Cafe

If you look at the staff profiles on the Southport Grocery & Cafe website, owner Lisa Santos' profile stands out not just because it's the first one listed, but also because of her recognition that food and food experiences are intricately woven into people's daily lives. A former Slow Food Chicago board member, it's no surprise that Lisa runs her business by objectives that closely mirror our mission of good, clean and fair food for all. By supporting local farmers with a fresh + seasonal menu, giving an audience to the sweat equity of artisanal producers with their grocery, and preserving flavors of peak harvest to get you through the winter, Southport Grocery & Cafe is working hard to support and highlight the fruits of local laborers. Read on for more from Lisa about how they got started and why romaine beats kale as a popular and versatile leafy green.

What was the idea behind Southport Grocery & Cafe? How did you start?

We started preserving in 2009; the recession hit everyone and we needed to look at our expenses. We were shipping great preserves from California but the price plus shipping made the products expensive. We started preserving a handful of items that year and now do well over 75 from fruits preserves, pickles, condiments + soda syrups.

What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

Planning! There is so much planning in this business; especially for preserving, what is available from the farms and when, staffing, new product testing, etc.

What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

Well, I have two bests: one, coming up with something new that we are excited to share with our customers; and two, a great batch of preserves that started with the perfect fruit from a farm and the well balanced preservation process.

The hardest part of my job is the overall balancing act of food costs, labor costs, and competitive pricing.

The smoked fish plate available as a brunch option at Southport Grocery & Cafe in Lakeview.

The smoked fish plate available as a brunch option at Southport Grocery & Cafe in Lakeview.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food systems to overcome?

A challenging obstacle can be the City itself. There are a lot of small moving parts to operate a business here!

How does Southport Grocery's work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, + fair food)?

Southport Grocery uses good, clean and fair food whenever we can. As a matter of fact, our preserves have won three Good Food Awards! I have to say, 'whenever we can' because we need to offer a competitive price to our customers in the end.

Favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow?

The Infatuation.

What do you think should be up next for trendiest food item - kale's successor?

I would like to see romaine be more on trend... it is chock full of nutrients and it is my favorite vegetable to grill! Grilling romaine adds dimension to any salad.

What wins - avocado toast vs. artichoke toast?

Avocado for sure... I love the creaminess!

A interior view of Southport Grocery & Cafe's dining and grocery options.

A interior view of Southport Grocery & Cafe's dining and grocery options.

Why Chicago? If not Chicago, where?

Chicago is a great city with a great food presence... we have been open for 13 years! It is amazing where Chicago has evolved to. And if not Chicago, NYC. I love that city... but I am pretty sure doing business there has even more moving parts!

Want to learn more about Southport Grocery and Cafe? Follow along via the links below.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram

Slow Food Chicago Member July Discount Partner Profile : The Chopping Block

Slow Food Chicago Members have just a couple more days to wait before they can take advantage of the July Year of Slow Food member promotion for discounted pricing on any July or August cooking classes (booked in the month of July) at The Chopping Block. We had the pleasure of chatting with their Marketing Manager Andrea Miller to discuss how their classes help patrons get comfortable and gain confidence cooking for themselves at home. This, in turn, lends a little love to our Slow Food grassroots movement of promoting and advocating for food that is good for you, cleanly produced, and fair to all those involved in it's production. Here's Andrea!

What was the idea behind The Chopping Block? How did you start?

The Chopping Block opened at the original location in 1997 as an antique cookware shop and cooking school in a small cottage in Lincoln Park. Shortly after opening, Owner and Chef Shelley Young found that many of her customers needed assistance in selecting pots and pans and other kitchen equipment. The retail portion of the store began to grow as Young and her team of instructors started choosing the best equipment and ingredients for home cooks and carrying those items in the store. A mentoring style of relationship flourished between The Chopping Block and its students, who quickly saw the storehouse of knowledge available in the staff. The partnership worked, and in 2003, The Chopping Block opened its second location in Lincoln Square. The Lincoln Park location was moved to an 8,000 square foot space in the Merchandise Mart in Summer 2005, which greatly expanded the offerings of the school, including the ability to offer customized private cooking events for groups as large as 300 people.

What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

We are always preparing for our next cooking class or private event. As one of the busiest recreational cooking schools in the country hosting an average of 300 classes and events each month, there's always something going on in our seven kitchens at our two Chicago locations.

What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

The best part about working at The Chopping Block is being part of a team whose mission is to get the country to cook. We do that not only by offering cooking classes and private events, but by building a community around cooking through our website, social media outlets and instructional videos. Our staff sets up apart from other schools because they truly care about cooking. Shelley has a motto she lives by everyday. Her goal is to create a company environment that her employees' view as "the best job they have ever had."

The sluggish economy presents an interesting situation for The Chopping Block. While Americans are still tightening their belt on eating out, they are cooking more at home. So, while people may be hesitant to spend the money on a cooking class, they greatly value the skills learned at the class. We provide a service that helps people make better decisions about food.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food systems to overcome?

Getting quality food and education on how to prepare it for more people in need.

How does The Chopping Block's work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

It's no secret that eating at home is less expensive, healthier and brings families and friends together at the table. It's focusing on those relationships that are created over food that we try to lead by example. We are constantly evolving to fit our customers' needs. With all of the different classes and events we do each month, it can be a challenge to engage each person that walks through our doors. But our staff excels at this! Whether a customer is attending one of our intensive Culinary Boot Camps or out for a fun date night, our goal is to listen to what they hope to get out of their experience and meet those expectations.

What surprising food item or cooking method do you think will trend in 2016?

Vegetables are stealing the show this year, and we've seen that by the popularity of our Clean Eating classes as well as the number of people who downloaded our free Clean Eating: Getting Started Guide.

What's your favorite food related social media account to follow?

It's so hard to choose just one! We love Food52, The Kitchn, Tasting Table and many more.

Anything else you'd like to share?

We also carry food-friendly wines and craft spirits at both locations, and we recently opened a bar at the Merchandise Mart. Stop by for Happy Hour on Tuesdays 4pm-6pm and enjoy select glasses of wines for $7!

Want to learn more and keep up with The Chopping Block crew? Follow along via the links below.

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest 

Slow Food Chicago Member May Discount Partner Profile : Angelic Organics

For Slow Food Chicago members, you have just a few days left to take advantage of May's Year of Slow Food member discount on programming from Angelic Organics. Read on below to get some insight into how Angelic Organics got started, and how they are fighting for good, clean and fair food for all.

The following profile is as answered by Angelic Organics' Associate Executive Director, Deb Crockett.

What was the idea behind Angelic Organics Learning Center? How did you start?

In the fall of 1998, the core group of shareholders in Angelic Organics Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm met for a week to dream about how to best respond to people wanting to learn from and about Angelic Organics. Farmer John Peterson wanted to support educational efforts on the farm, but needed to focus his own energy on growing vegetables. So, the core group decided to start a non-profit dedicated to food & farm education; founders Tom Spaulding and Neddy Astudillo packed their bags and moved to Caledonia from Chicago to launch the Learning Center as a non-profit the following spring.  

Since then, we’ve stayed true to our mission to build sustainable local food and farm systems through programs that change the way people farm and eat, so that the food and farm economy is healthy, green, fair and culturally-expressed. We offer various food + farm workshops, school field trips, summer day camps, and customized group programs on Angelic Organics farm. We facilitate urban farming programs in Rockford and Chicago (Englewood) that increase access to good food, growing opportunities, and entrepreneurial skills. We support the next generation of sustainable farmers through our yearlong Stateline Farm Beginnings training course, the Upper Midwest CRAFT farmer training alliance, and various farm financing programs. 

What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

My days are so varied! This next week, I’ll teach a class for preschoolers and their parents, meet with community partners, evaluate our work, cook breakfast for our staff, do hive checks for our three hives, and address whatever other issues and ideas come forward from our talented and dedicated staff team. As much as the weather permits, I take my computer and meetings to the porch of our whole tree architecture building, with good views of goats, chickens, cattle and more! By the way, the pigs just went out to pasture today and are having a fantastic and comical romp in the field.  

What’s the best part about your job? The hardest part?

The best part is when people make a connection through a Learning Center program--with a farm, with their food, with another person, or with their own personal calling. You see this in hundreds of small transformations that lead to a larger impact: from a boost in a child’s self confidence after milking a goat, to a farmer who is able to finally leave their day job to pursue their dream.  The hardest part is that there is never enough time to do everything.  

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago’s food systems to overcome?

Quite simply we need more farmers connected directly with more people who want good food.  And, by “want good food” I mean people who understand the value of healthy, local, connected food and are willing and able to pay enough for their food that farmers can make a living wage while growing our very sustenance.  

How does Angelic Organics Learning Center’s work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

The Learning Center considers "good food” as food coming from a sustainable local food and farm economy that satisfies a “Quadruple Bottom Line”, which we define as Economy, Equity, Ecology and Expression.  Another way of talking about it is that good food is healthy (meets the needs of our bodies and communities), green (meets Earth’s needs), fair (protects the rights of all workers and eaters and gives farmers a living wage), and culturally expressed (protects freedom of expression and culture).  

Our tagline is “Learn Grow Connect,” and this resonates throughout all of our programs and work.  We provide opportunities for eaters to learn skills to grow, get and prepare good food at three locations in Rockford, Chicago, and Caledonia.  Through our farmer training programs, we support beginning farmers in overcoming obstacles to farm viability, for instance, helping them to write a realistic business plan, to manage saving for a farm implement, or to connect with a mentor.  We always work in partnerships to more effectively share best practices, build community, and change culture, laws, or circumstances to favor the local food system.  We believe that people from all sectors of our food system need voice and opportunity in getting access to good food.  

What surprising homesteading hobby do you think will trend in 2016?

Using backyard plants for medicinal purposes: elderberry cough syrup, plantain poultices, and a variety of teas and tinctures from many plants.  

Favorite food related social media account to follow?

I asked my colleagues for help on this one, and their suggestions ranged widely: try The Sporkful (, EatLocalGrown, Punk Domestics, Civil Eats, Food + Tech Connect,; Chicago Farm Report; Natural Awakenings

Is there anything else you’d like us to share about your business?

Come join us for an upcoming workshop or event!  Visit to sign up for a skills workshop or event on Angelic Organics farm, or create your own experience through a customized program. We also encourage people to attend our Peak Harvest Farm Dinner on July 28 at Galleria Marchetti in Chicago. We will be honoring Rick Bayless & Deann Groen Bayless of Frontera Farmer Foundation. Guests will enjoy cuisine & cocktails made from locally sourced ingredients, live music, adorable farm animals, and special guests including emcee Monica Eng! Tickets & info can be found at We also offer numerous volunteering or job opportunities at  

Hungry for more? Catch up with Angelic Organics via the link below. And get in on the member deal here. Not a Slow Food member? Sign up here.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube 


Slow Food Chicago Member Discount Partner Profile : The Spice House

Being a member of Slow Food Chicago does not come without it's benefits. Thanks to Year of Slow Food - your membership becomes something more tangible that just a donation to a cause you believe in. Throughout the year, each month members receive new offers and discounts from local businesses, restaurants, farms, and purveyors emulating the Slow Food objectives for a good, clean and fair food system. This month's (April) member partner is The Spice House - run by second generation spice merchants, dedicated to grinding their carefully curated selection of imported spices in small batches which are then mixed by hand, often using family recipes to create some of their popular blends. Let's just say, if you plan on slowing down and cooking a meal from scratch anytime soon - these are the tools you'll want in your back pocket - high quality, thoughtfully sourced spices and blends from the pro's who have been at this since 1957. Read on for a peek into a day in the life of a spice merchant and get a sense for their dedication to an "old-fashioned" process - regardless of how "slow" it may be.

What was the idea behind The Spice House? How did you start?

We are second generation spice merchants, my parents began our store in 1957. Their goal, which follows through to today, was to supply our customers with spices of the highest caliber from the top sources of origin from around the world. Once imported, we grind the spices fresh in house. Once finished we hand craft our seasonings based on our old family recipes. 

What would you be doing right now on a typical work day?

Today we are grinding the most fragrant black pepper from the Tellicherry coast of India. Once ground, this will become one of the fresh ingredients in our bestselling blend, Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper, Butchers’ Rub.  We will take care of many customers, enjoying our talk about cooking.  I will also answer dozens of emails from other customers who are not so lucky to be shopping in store, where they can taste everything, but are instead shopping online. 

What's the best part about your job? The hardest part?

Being a spice merchant is absolutely the best part of the job. We love to experiment with flavors and create new blends. It was all pure and beautiful when we just had brick and mortar shops where we talked to our customers about cooking all day long. Then the internet came along, and that scenario changed. The hardest part is all the things we are forced to do that have nothing to do with being spice merchants. We recently installed a new POS system which has given us months of headaches because the gateways don’t all interface with one another. Balancing the budget, accounting reports, human resources, PR, SEO, social media and all the other jobs that are required to stay afloat in today’s world of e-commerce are a necessary part of our work day. 

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago's food system to overcome?

Food desserts still desperately need attention and further action on early initiatives. People everywhere need to have access to affordable, healthy food choices. The upscale neighborhood of Old Town, where one of our shops is located, has at least a dozen good grocery stores within a mile. Large areas like Bronzeville or Englewood have almost none. Kudos to Whole Foods for putting in a store in Englewood this year.  

How does The Spice House's work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

We source the highest quality spices and herbs from around the world. Once imported, we take care to grind everything in house, in small batches of what we are anticipating selling in the next week or two. Once ground, the spices get mixed into seasonings by hand, again in small batches to ensure the ultimate in freshness. And the following week, we start all over again. Whenever possible, we try to support new initiatives by co-operatives in third world countries, who are trying to teach farmers a way to augment their income by introducing spice crops to their crop rotations. 

Here is a video of one of our blends, Chesapeake Bay Seasoning, being created. You can see how slow and old fashioned our blending process is!

The Spice House's curry powder blend.

The Spice House's curry powder blend.

What surprising spice do you think will trend in 2016?

I think we are seeing a great deal of interest in lost or extinct crops.  Crops that went out of vogue for some reason, now have piqued our interest.  There are some really devoted people focused on this, like Glen Roberts of Anson Mills. With the help of scientist David Shields, and his in-depth knowledge of seed banks and culinary history, they are able to work toward returning some lost legacies from ancient times to today’s farmers and chefs. I believe you call this a re-emergent cuisine. One can extrapolate that this will translate into the spice world as well. Ancient herbs are returning to the culinary forefront. And while thyme, rosemary, mint, lavender, have always been culinary herbs, they have never been more popular. If this is a trend, heirloom spices and herbs should also be on our radar. Trending upward over the past few years and showing no sign of slowing down, is turmeric, which has some pretty powerful medicinal properties. 

What is your favorite food related social media account to follow (outside of Slow Food Chicago, of course)?

I really enjoy the work of the gang at Serious Eats.  A really great local food forum which lots of great foodie chat is LTH Forum.    

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your business?

We were thrilled to be named to Food and Wine’s best spice shops in THE WORLD!  

Hungry for more? Follow along with The Spice House team via the links below.

Website / Facebook / Blog / Twitter / Instagram / PinterestNewsletter Sign-Up

To receive the full 52-page Spice House catalog, email

Slow Chicagoan Profile : Lee Greene of Scrumptious Pantry

Team Beaver Dam Pepper! John (the grower), Larry (the grandson) and Lee (of Scrumptious Pantry).

Team Beaver Dam Pepper! John (the grower), Larry (the grandson) and Lee (of Scrumptious Pantry).

There's been a lot of discussion (due to all the buzzing surrounding the upcoming election) about voting lately. Much like voting for a candidate, each time you go to the grocery store or farmers market or co-op, you are quite literally voting with your dollars. From the products you buy, to the stores or farmers you support, even to how you got there - each choice can have a butterfly effect on how our food system operates, often without us even realizing it. We cast our food votes daily - at every meal. Scrumptious Pantry is a business that I feel resonates deeply with this process. Founder Lee Greene, produces condiments crafted not only with care but with carefully selected heirloom varieties of ingredients. By putting only the best into the process - she gets products that burst with authentic flavors. And while I'm sure doing things Lee's way may seem at times like an upstream battle, the end product proves that it is something worth fighting (and voting) for. Read on for more about Lee, how her business began, and addressing the struggle to find balance between good, clean and fair all at once.

What was the idea behind Scrumptious Pantry? How did you start?

Well, I did my MBA in Milan and was blown away by the fierceness with which my friends debated the difference between a tomato grown in one town and the one grown five miles down the road. I had no idea food could create such passionate debates! Nor did I previously understand that, yes, five miles do make a difference. That intrigued me, so after graduation I joined a small Tuscan biodynamic winery – Cosimo Maria Masini - as their Managing Director. You can find their wines in Chicago, by the way. There I really understood the concept of terroir (or sense of place) and what it means to have a truly sustainable agricultural production. We had started selling our wines to Chicago with the help of our awesome friends at Candid Wines, so I spent quite a bit of time here hustling the wines. Consumer interest in food and its origins was beginning to grow, so I figured why not take the concepts of terroir, regional varieties and culinary history and create a food brand based on these values. So in 2010 my cats and I arrived in Chicago. We launched the first products showcasing domestic heirloom varieties in March 2011 at the Good Food Festival.

Scrumptious Pantry's beaver dam pepper product lineup.

Scrumptious Pantry's beaver dam pepper product lineup.

What would you be doing right now on a typical workday?

There is no typical workday. I might be visiting a farm and discussing some new heirloom crops to grow, developing recipes, doing a photo shoot, making sales calls or checking on our numbers. Accounting is the least sexy thing, but the most important. You gotta know your numbers!

What’s the best part about your job? The hardest part?

I love any type of event where I can meet customers and feed them samples. It is invigorating to see their eyes widen in delight and the best compliment is to hear “That tastes like *insert food memory*”. Touching people with food is very powerful, and that is where the chance for change lies. 

The hardest part is surviving. Unfortunately most of the food businesses dedicated to sustainable food are far from being sustainable from an economic perspective. It takes a lot of money to build a brand, serve the retail customers, keep inventory on hand... Consumers might think “that is expensive” if they see a jam or sauce or what not on the shelves in a store at $5.99. But rest assured – no one is making a killing on that. You need various levels along the distribution chain to get the product to customers. Back to the $5.99 example - to break even as a business that sells their products with an MSRP of $5.99, you have to sell 1,000 units a day. 365 days a week. For products that are not consumed several times a day (like bread, meats, dairy, produce), it is almost impossible to only serve a local market. You need to have a much wider customer base. And that takes a lot of time and money to build.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Chicago’s food systems to overcome?

We are very lucky here in Chicago, we have such a bounty surrounding us. The fruit, veggie and dairy farms are plentiful. The cheesemakers amazing. We even have local fish in the Great Lakes. And then there are all these talented food artisans and chefs creating beautiful interpretations of the ingredients. It is truly a celebration of the Midwest. 

But we still have ways to go to make these experiences accessible for more people. Right now we are stuck: there are a few niche customers that are willing to pay the premium that it takes to make better food, but they are not enough to really impact the cost of the food. After all, it is a market: more demand leads to more efficiencies and better tools and that leads to lower cost, at which point more consumers can access the market. There are a great number of people working on solutions: collaborative structures, food hubs… Those are crucial if we really want a good, clean and fair food system. 

Scrumptious Pantry is a Chicago based company committed to showcasing heirloom ingredients.

Scrumptious Pantry is a Chicago based company committed to showcasing heirloom ingredients.

How does Scrumptious Pantry’s work relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair food)?

Scrumptious Pantry is about the true flavor of food - that is why we are highlighting heirloom varieties in our products. If you have great tasting ingredients, you do not need any additives to make up for the lack of real flavor. Ingredient lists of processed food started to read like a science project, because there was no more flavor in the raw materials once we turned to mass-produced agriculture. If you adjust varieties for ease of cultivation, uniformity, shelf life… There is a round-up on how flavor was bred out of the tomato on our blog. It was not done intentionally, flavor was just not the priority anymore. (

So by going back to real flavorful ingredients, and celebrating those flavors, you’ve got good and clean. Growing food with flavor takes time and dedication, and is often more risky than relying on hybrid varieties. You got to be a fair partner to the farmers, if you want good product. Plus, I am on the lower end of the totem pole myself. I’d like to be fairly treated and be able to sell my product for a price that respects the work that went in to it. You cannot really ask for fair treatment of yourself and then disregard the fair treatment of your partners.

What do you think is in store for 2016’s trendiest food item- kale’s successor?

I wish we would stop running after food trends. They are distractions from actual food education. Or maybe we can make food education the next trend? 

Why Chicago? If not Chicago, where?

I came to Chicago because it’s truly the heartland. As I mentioned before, there is such a bounty here for sourcing and of ideas. From a business perspective as a consumer good New York is the place to be though. That is where the opinion leaders and the influencers are that reach the nation far and near. As well as the money. It is almost incestuous, but boy, they are successful in creating launching pads for new brands.

What is your second favorite Chicago food related social media account to follow? (Can’t be first, because of course, SFC is your first favorite.)

I love to follow what my fellow good food entrepreneurs and cheer them on. IF I had to choose one it would probably be Mike and Anne at Sauce & Bread Kitchen/Coop-Sauce/Crumb Bread. They tell so many great stories, and their pictures of their food makes me hop on my bike and pedal from Logan Square to Edgewater, so I can enjoy their creations to the fullest.

Want to follow along with Lee and keep informed about updates at her business? You can find more Scrumptious Pantry via the links below.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 

Slow Chicagoan Profile : Jen Moore of Meez Meals

The following is a guest blog post by local Chicago writer and illustrator, Emily Torem.

It's that time of year. Life gets - well, busy. And sometimes, even thought you might not like to admit it, our hectic lives (whether during the holidays or not) might get in the way of slowing down to enjoy a quality, healthy, fresh cooked, or even locally sourced meal. Meez Meals founder Jen Moore realized that working parents, busy people and practically everyone in between could relate to this struggle. Her idea, to found a company which delivers prepped and pre-measured ingredients to homes all over Chicago helps scores of busy folks slow down and sit down to a delicious dinner each night with friends and family. Moore's facility is one of the prized few in Chicago to be a Certified Green Restaurant Association location and her mission helps connect subscribers with their food, the people around them, and being present in a fast paced world - something that speaks to the very core of the Slow Food Chicago mission. Read on for our interview with Jen and to learn more about how Meez Meals is helping it's Chicago members reconnect with mealtime. As we close out the year, many of us had the pleasure of gathering with family and friends around a communal table to enjoy a meal together during the holiday season. With the help of companies like Jen's, this act of slowing down and enjoying your food can become habit the whole year through.

How did Meez Meals come about?

I was working in brand management at Unilever when my sister and I were talking about dinner, and what a challenge it is. We grew up with a mother who cooked dinner from scratch for us every night, and we both loved cooking. But as a working mom with a small child at home, my sister said that preparing dinner wasn't any fun anymore. She didn't want someone to cook for her, she just wanted someone to do all the prep work.

It was like a lightbulb went off - that was a business that should exist. So, I left my job in marketing to start Meez!

How do you come up with Meez Meals recipes? 

Our recipes are all fun and creative, typically with a twist on a classic to make it healthier, faster or just a little unexpected. This means that cooking with us is always a culinary adventure, and dinner is more fun than just cooking up your same mental inventory of recipes.

To develop the recipes, I work closely with our chef, brainstorming twists on recipes I've discovered in my own cooking, favorites from his personal repertoire, requests from members, articles we've read, restaurant menus we've tasted. Basically, any place we can get ideas, we do!

How does your work with Meez Meals relate to the Slow Food objectives (good, clean, fair)?

Most people love the idea of cooking dinner from scratch. They know that there's something special about it, but it's just too hard for so many of us because of the realities of life. After long hours at work, helping the kids with homework, getting laundry in, dinner just seems to fall to the bottom of the priority list. I founded Meez to help make it possible for people to do what they've been wanting to: enjoy sitting down to a meal they cooked themselves.

So many people go to the grocery store each week with great intentions of cooking dinner and buy all the necessary ingredients, only to find that they don't actually feel like cooking, and much of their purchases end up spoiling before they get to them. Or, they have an entire head of cauliflower and the recipe only calls for half, and they let the other half go bad before they use it up.

As a certified Green Restaurant Association location, can you walk us through how you got this certification and some of the green aspects of your business?

We reached out to the Green Restaurant Association for our certification 2 years ago. In our first year, we were certified as a 2-star green restaurant. And then this year, we achieved the 3-star rating. (We're just 1 of 10 organizations in Chicagoland to meet this level, and we're proud of our achievement!)

Some of our "green" efforts include:

-Composting food waste - Meez Meals takes a proactive stance in reducing waste by composting kitchen waste and adhering to comprehensive recycling activities, including donations to local food banks.

-Reusing delivery containers - Meez Meals reuses its insulated cooler bags every week. Through its personalized delivery service, previously used coolers are collected each week to be cleaned and reused for future deliveries.

-Meatless meals - A large number of Meez Meals are meatless, which translates to lower carbon dioxide emissions and water usage, making it a smart choice for the Earth and personal health.

-Cage-free chicken and responsibly fished seafood : Our recipes which do include meat use only hormone-free, cage free chicken and responsibly fished seafood.

-Water and electrical efficiency : Meez Meals uses low-flow plumbing fixtures and energy-saving features in it's production facility.

-Local, routed deliveries : Meezl Meals delivers to a 1,000 square-mile area around Chicagoland in efficiently routed deliveries, minimizing the carbon footprint to deliver meals from it's facility.

-Sourcing local : We work with local suppliers, particularly for our produce. We stay in regular contact about the produce market, what's had a good crop, where we need to adjust our recipes, etc.

Obviously you appreciate the importance of sitting down to a meal and communing - two things that Slow Food is all about. Can you explain why this is important - so much that you created a business model around it?

Research abounds that families that sit down and eat together end up happier and healthier. Beyond those studies, though, we all know something special happens when families slow down and take time together. The challenge in this day and age is getting folks to slow down. We've found that when the house has been filled with wonderful smells of food cooking, when someone has taken some time to prepare the meal, people are just more likely to sit down together and talk. Dinner becomes about more than the food. It's an occasion and a time in your day to be savored, not rushed through.

Hungry for more? Follow Jen and the Meez Meals crew via the links below.

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Blog