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Life and Work with Denise Macuk

Today we’d like to introduce you to Denise Macuk.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My love for food and cooking began on Long Island, where I grew up in a food-centric family. I enjoyed any time I got to help my mom in the kitchen, and I loved standing alongside my sister—both of us on stools—assisting my grandparents at the stove. The best times were when the whole family got together to cook traditional Italian dishes, and then ate a seven-hour Sunday dinner. It was before the Food Network, and cooking was for family, not for a career.

I received my B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Business from UCLA, and began my corporate career in market research. I excelled and was promoted into management. Then my world changed when my sister Christine passed away in a fire. I was truly devastated and grief-stricken, so my then boyfriend, Michael Macuk, and I took off on a sabbatical to Europe to heal.

Traveling to different countries opened up a whole new world of flavors. I found that I could recreate many of my favorite newly discovered dishes myself, with no recipes, just by paying close attention to every bite and really homing in on what ingredients could be responsible for the tastes I was experiencing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this creative outlet was very therapeutic and good for my soul. We returned to the states after six months, engaged, and went back to our jobs.

After pouring myself into my work, I became the Vice President of Sales & Marketing—and an insomniac. I would wake up in the middle of the night and start cooking until it was time to go to work. Then, I’d have a 4-course lunch ready to bring to the employees at work. The employees loved it! Since I wasn’t sleeping much anyway, I decided to go to culinary school at night—just for fun. By graduation, I had quit my high-paying corporate job to start California Chef, to do something I loved.

California Chef began as a personal chef service that delivered delicious meals to a handful of busy families. By working with LA doctors and nutritionists, it quickly grew into a healthy meal service that could help clients with weight loss and health-management issues. Our meals are still 100% personalized and, of course, delicious! I’ve had the pleasure of cooking for top-name celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson and Billy Crystal, and I take pride in having helped thousands of people lose weight and improve their health. And California Chef now delivers to the greater LA area: from Camarillo to Santa Clarita to Sierra Madre to North Orange County, and nearly everywhere in between.

Has it been a smooth road?
Like most entrepreneurial companies, we’ve experienced some bumps in the road. Since California Chef was a pioneer in personalized meal delivery, we didn’t have a blueprint to go by. We developed our own systems and processes for every step and procedure. Then we would outgrow the systems we had just mastered and have to create new ones. I’m definitely not complaining about growth, but it did make it hard to keep up with all the work at times. Then, just when I felt I had things all figured out, something external and out of my control would change. Rising gas prices, higher food costs, increases in the minimum wage, and new competition in the marketplace have all made it harder to consistently generate a profit in a notoriously tough industry.

I was fortunate that I had a business background, and I don’t think I would have gotten past Year 1 without it. It’s not enough to be the best at what you do or to have a great idea. So, if you are not business savvy, make sure that you have a partner who is, or that you at least have access to someone who is a seasoned businessperson. Above all, I would say, do not start something unless you feel passionate about it. You will work long hours and have to make sacrifices, so make sure you’re doing so for something you love.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with California Chef – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
California Chef’s meals are 100% personalized! Each meal is prepared according to each client’s likes and dislikes and is weighed individually to meet each client’s customized calorie count. No other meal delivery service provides this level of personalization.

We specialize in weight loss and have helped celebrities, professional athletes, business executives, busy moms, and thousands of Angelinos lose weight by eating food they love! Our favorite phone call is when someone wants to make sure that they are on the Weight Loss Plan because the food tastes too good. We firmly believe that “when you love what you eat, you don’t have to cheat!”

Because every meal is personalized, California Chef can meet the dietary requirements for almost any health condition and can follow any doctor’s instructions for their patients. Helping people become and stay healthy is one of the things I’m most proud of doing. We’ve had so many people thank us for helping them lower their blood pressure and cholesterol, control their blood sugar, maintain heart health, recover from cancer, and, of course, lose weight. It’s an amazing feeling to know you’ve helped so many people.

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
If you’re smart, reliable, can follow instructions, and work hard, I believe you’ll stand out in any kitchen, whether you’re male or female. And if you are a female, there most likely will be fewer of you at your kitchen, so you will shine even more. When I post an ad for a cook, I get seven times as many male applicants as female applicants. I believe as more kitchens and companies make diversity a priority, women will be in high demand for a cook, chef, and managerial positions.

Pricing:

  • Lunch & Dinner $38/day
  • Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner $46/day
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & 1 Snack $50/day
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & 2 Snacks $54/day
  • Gift Certificates starting at $50

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Denise Macuk, Sergii Koval, Elena Veselova, Nina Firsova

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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