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June 2012
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family thyme

Story by Jessica Toren Photography by Phil Burt and Nancy Sutton

I admit it. Cooking is not my thing. Never has been. I blame my mother. It was not her thing either. However, she was a working mother, as I am now, and cooking just wasn't something either of us had much time to do.

I currently wear the following hats: wife, mother to a very energetic toddler, full- time employee, adjunct college professor and freelance writer. Throw in a few volunteer commitments, and it is a full schedule leaving little time to grocery shop, plan meals, cook, and do the dishes. For all of these reasons and more, I was thrilled to discover Family Thyme Chef Services.

Owner Colton Lyles started Family Thyme as a personal family chef service who can help you with your grocery and cooking needs.

"At the end of the day, I'm just a guy who likes to cook, and I want to share that with other people. I use fresh ingredients and encourage my clients to eat proper food made the right way," Lyles said.

Lyles is a graduate of Sullivan University culinary school and grew up cooking.

"I cooked professionally for a year and a half. It was good for my technique, but it was a lot of time away from my family. Professional chefs often work 70 hours or more every week. I wanted to find a way to help families eat dinner together and give back to my community. I strongly believe families should eat meals together," Lyles said.

For my family's needs, I signed up for the personalized meal plans and cooking service. This includes grocery shopping and preparing seven meals for the week.

Lyles first came to my home for a consulting session about my family's dining preferences, food allergies if any, dietary restrictions, and weekly meal schedule. We brainstormed ideas, and I selected a variety of his most popular choices. Lyles then went grocery shopping and arrived in my home on the selected date with bags of fresh vegetables, eggs, a whole chicken and an actual toolbox of supplies. (Again, as I am not much of a cook, he supplied all pots, pans, and utensils he needed).

Lyles can make anything any client would like, but he does prefer to test the recipes first.

"I try to make it a rule not to offer anything I haven't made myself. I want to know what it tastes like before I offer it to clients. I have some clients who are gluten free or have food allergies and I can accommodate many dietary restrictions or preferences," Lyles said.

Lyles used some pantry staples and foods I already had on hand.

"To me, I like re-purposing: using what is in pantries and freezes well to make several meals. I also look for sales on products when I shop for clients. Value is very important. We are not cooking cheap food items in terms of quality, we are cooking very smart with our products," Lyles said.

My home smelled of fragrant spices the entire four hours he spent cooking the meals for my family.

"I like clean flavors, not necessarily 17 different spices. I think chicken should taste like good seasoned chicken, not like too many spices," Lyles said.

His most popular dishes are family friendly meals, including pastas and homemade chicken pot pies.

"Sometimes clients' kids will watch while I cook, and I love to help teach them about cooking," Lyles said.

In addition to busy families, Lyles also has several senior clients for whom he prepares nutritious meals.

"My best experience has been with a retired client. His adult children came to him and said, 'You have to rein in your fast food habits.' After cooking for him a few times, he came to me and said, 'I have no doubt you and your food are helping extend my life.' That really makes me feel good about what I am doing," Lyles said.

Another client, a former professional bodybuilder, said, "I spent a lot of time eating unseasoned chicken, rice and broccoli. I'm ready for food that tastes good!"

As for the good tasting food, my family chose the following meals:

Steak stir fry

Breakfast casserole

Chicken pot pie

Minestrone soup

Chicken enchiladas

Baked ziti


We tend to eat a great deal of Italian and Mexican food in our house. To accommodate each of the meals, Lyles cooked a whole chicken and created broth for the soup, and used the shredded chicken in the enchiladas and pot pie. He also made his own tomato sauce, which he used in both the ziti and lasagna. When he was finished, all the remaining ingredients were put away in my pantry, and he washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen.

The verdict? The food was delicious. My family had seconds of every meal and more than enough leftovers to provide lunches throughout the week. We even shared the lasagna with our neighbors and had a wonderful meal.

Lyles uses far more vegetables than my family is used to eating. It was great to see everyone eating healthy food, and I was able to enjoy more family time throughout our busy week. n

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