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Meet Stephanie Miller of Culinary by Design in Newport Beach and Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Miller.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking as long as I can remember. I started at a young age with my mother and continued into college at Long Beach State. Being a typical college student, I quickly learned that eating at restaurants that had high quality ingredients and good food preparation was outside my normal budget, so cooking for myself became a necessity. My roommates’ not-so-subtle jealousy of my meals quickly turned into family-style meals as we would share our experiences of the day and enjoy the benefits of shared cooking costs and together time. As college progressed, cooking transformed into an escape from the pressures of classes and into a place where I was most comfortable and at peace in the kitchen. This kitchen comfort continued even after I graduated, but cooking didn’t take on a dominant role in my life until I met my husband nearly 10 years later. Through him, I realized that it’s really possible to follow your true passions in life, so I enrolled in culinary school and became a full-time student again. I was finally able to professionally refine my cooking skills and for the first time, become an actual “chef”.

My previous work experience in the agency world taught me that I really enjoyed working directly with clients and the close interactions and intimate cooking situations were a perfect complement to the formality of my culinary degree. I was able to show my clients how they could eat well at home by using fresh, quality ingredients and so I started Culinary by Design.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I started Culinary by Design in 2007 which turned out to be both a perfect time and a lousy time to start a personal chef business. The economy was still good and I was able to very quickly establish some routine clientele. Unfortunately, within the next 2 years, the economy turned and my clients who had formed my core business had to trim budgets (which meant ME). This meant that my growing business suddenly became a shrinking business and I once again had to rely upon my previous life experiences in the marketing world to accommodate. I realized that for the right market, being a personal chef was still a necessity for individuals and families that had dietary restrictions. I marketed myself at local food shops, dietitians, and doctor’s offices and found new clients with unusual cooking requirements. I was able to start growing the business again, but was now faced with a new challenge… How do I accommodate the restrictions, yet provide quality and wonderful tasting meals without the “normal” ingredients? It was this challenge that led me to a much deeper understanding of the relationships of vegetables, fruits and spices and how the right sauce can really transform a dish. I learned how to innovate on recipes to adhere to the restrictions and create a new and original dish at the same time. I learned the value of cooking on purpose and have been able to carry that into my cooking today.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Culinary by Design – what should we know?
Culinary by Design focuses on personal chef services tailored to fit our client’s specific needs. Today’s world is filled with busy schedules, ho-hum restaurants, daunting amounts of grocery choices and flooded with an infinite amount of recipe websites. Our goal is to simplify and bring tailored, quality meals directly to the comforts of your own home on your schedule. We primarily specialize in:

1) Routine Meal Delivery

Many of our clients enjoy eating at home, but are too busy and they don’t have the time to cook, are overwhelmed with meal planning or simply aren’t that great in the kitchen. We’re able to make this all easy for them with individually packaged fresh meals that can go from their refrigerator straight into the oven. All they have to do is follow the cooking instructions and enjoy the food!

2) Cooking lessons

Most group cooking lessons have inconvenient times, lessons and subjects that aren’t interesting or relevant and aren’t realistic because they’re staged in professional kitchens. We’re able to offer in-home lessons with topics and menu selections that excite our clients and inspire them to cook. We work around their schedules and do it all from the comforts of their own home environments.

3) Catering

We focus on intimate dinner parties for our clients. Sometimes, you want the full-service of going out to a nice restaurant, but from the comfort of your own home. We work directly with our clients to understand their vision and establish a unique menu for the occasion. We prepare, cook, serve and cleanup for the clients so they can sit back, relax and enjoy the meal with their guests.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Detail. As with many things in life, it’s the details that really make the impact. Food and ingredients are never the same each day. Tastes change routinely and personal desires change even faster. It’s my job to pay attention to every detail of the food itself, to listen to each client’s desires and most importantly recognize and understand the details of the feedback that my clients give me. It’s very important to listen to “what they mean”, not necessarily “what they say” and use that feedback for the next meal or event to make it even better. Simply put, people get bored eating the same thing all the time and by minor, detail, adjustments to the menus, I’m able to always give my clients variety.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jason Wallis Photography


  1. Bea

    May 8, 2017 at 16:40

    Great article, I would definitely get in touch with Culinary by Design for my next intimate dinner party from the comforts of my home; as well as scheduling cooking lessons. My previous experiences with caterers was they are very set with specific menus and aren’t welling to vary. It sounds like Culinary by Design will totally customize for your desires. As well as give suggestions for added variety to the usual fare.

    • Stephanie Miller

      May 9, 2017 at 15:32

      Bea- we would love to hear from you and help you out! We are completely flexible on menus- our goal is for you to get the most out of your experience and will help in anyway we can.

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