Chow's on!

Midstate Living

April 4, 2007
by Janel Atlas

This personal chef always has dinner ready for you on time

You can tell a lot about a person by what's in the trunk of her car. Lisa Brisch's Subaru Sports Forester's trunk overflows with pots, pans, skillets, cutting boards and a toolbox filled with knives, spoons and spatulas.

"It's my moveable kitchen," says Brisch.

A personal chef and owner of Dinner Thyme Personal Chef Service in Middletown, Brisch provides her clients with up to 12 dinners at a time. She does the menu planning, the shopping, comes to the client's home, uses her own kitchen supplies, makes the food and packages it with instructions on reheating and finishing.

"The only way my clients can tell that I've been there is that their home smells delicious," and there's a stocked fridge and freezer, says Brisch, who serves clients throughout Kent and New Castle counties, as well as nearby Maryland.

Debbie Campbell, of Middletown, hired Brisch when her son, Richard, now 3, was born. Campbell's husband works three days a week on Wall Street.

"When Richard was still a baby, one evening my husband came in the door and asked, 'What's for dinner?' I wanted to kill him!" laughs Campbell, who works in finance.

After an Internet search turned up Brisch's Web site (, Campbell discovered that help was close by and could provide healthy meals for her family.

"I hired Lisa because I wanted to eat well and feed my family well, but I also wanted to reduce stress," says Campbell.

Before finding Dinner Thyme, Campbell said she spent about $1,000 per month on groceries, takeout, and eating out.

Now, she says she's spending less and her family eats better. She also has more control over what the family eats because Brisch consults with her clients to talk about preferences. The menu is customized to a family's tastes and diet.

Brisch's customer service is what sets Dinner Thyme apart, she says.

"Lots of people can cook, but if you don't have the mentality that you're cooking for people based on how they like to eat, not how you like to cook, you won't make it [as a personal chef]," says Brisch. "When you go to a restaurant, you're going to eat how they cook. I've twisted that, and I'm cooking the way you want it to be prepared."

Sherry Jennings, a Middletown working mom, is also one of Brisch's regulars. She requests that chicken dijionnaise, which her husband adores, be included in the menu. Another favorite, shrimp with orzo pasta, is popular with her children.

"I like everything that Lisa makes," says Jennings.

Knowing that dinner is taken care of is "a huge relief," she says.

"Some people may see hiring a personal chef like Lisa as an indulgence. But it's not. Before, we were going out to eat, and the cost of having Lisa cook for us is about the same, but we're eating at home and we're eating better," says Jennings.

Her oldest child is able to put the meal in the oven, and the family sits down to eat when Jennings gets home.

Most of Brisch's business comes from repeat clients. Many have heard about the service through word of mouth.

Moving here from Phoenix, Ariz., where Brisch started her personal chef business in 2000, was difficult because she didn't know anyone, but that soon changed when people started talking.

Her repeat clients say that the convenience is worth the price.

"Honestly, hiring Lisa was the best thing I have done for myself and family," says Campbell. "I am so much happier with myself and enjoy being with my family so much more at meal times. Every day -- before hiring Lisa -- I dreaded dinner time, and I thought it was just me. In actuality, I needed a little help, and she came to the rescue."

So, does Brisch ever get tired of cooking?

Actually, yes, but not for her clients. Sometimes, at the end of a day of cooking (which usually takes about five or six hours per family) the last thing she wants to do is cook for herself and her husband.