Smarty Moms: The Good Kitchen’s Amber Lewis and Melissa Hayes
I’m thrilled to introduce to this week’s Smarty MOMS (love a dual interview!), Amber Lewis and Melissa Hayes. I met these two beautiful friends last year when I was introduced to their fresh, fully-prepared meal delivery service The Good Kitchen (TGK). The minute I met them I was struck by their boundless energy, enthusiasm, and passion – must be all that healthy eating. I tried TGK and L-O-V-E-D everything about it – the convenience, variety, and deliciousness. My fam also totally enjoyed TGK’s Lunchboxes, a portable, kid-friendly meal that you really need to try as you wean yourself out of summer. Just sayin’.
These two ladies have an amazing thing going. It’s so much fun to watch success happen from a shared passion. I can’t thank them enough for sitting down for this dual interview! Hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I have, and if you haven’t already, try The Good Kitchen – I promise it’ll make life easier (and healthier!). (PS – Smarty Bonus – Use code SMARTY18 to receive 15% off your first order.)
Meet Amber and Melissa, the ladies behind The Good Kitchen!
Married to: Carter Lewis – 8 years
Children: Furbabies: Sadie (12) Ruby (2)
Years in Charlotte: 7
Hometown: Orlando, FL
Alma Mater: UNC Wilmington
Occupation: Founder/CEO, The Good Kitchen
Doing life with: My guy is Christian K. and between us we have 3 kiddos, 1 dog and 1 fish. Nate is 11, Macy is 9 and Gemma is 5.
Years in Charlotte: 3
Hometown: Atlanta via Lakewood OH
Alma Mater: UGA
‘Hood: Plaza Midwood
Occupation: Co-Founder and President at The Good Kitchen
Tell us how The Good Kitchen (TGK) started.
Amber: We started 6 years ago when I was running Paleo challenges at our gym. I noticed folks were not able to stay on track because of time and/or skill restraints. I started cooking for a couple of friends. Word spread. I started getting requests to make meals for several people in the gym. I saw a niche, so I rented some space in a commercial kitchen, bought a vacuum sealer, and started cooking for a small group. We’ve grown from there. This year, we went through a rebrand to The Good Kitchen and haven’t looked back!
Melissa: A long, long time ago, I tricked Amber into trying this newfangled diet called Paleo. She loved it and then tricked her husband Carter into trying. There is a lot of trickery in our relationship! Amber started cooking in her kitchen for some friends, then quickly moved to a commercial kitchen. From there she grew her company modPaleo into a Charlotte staple. When I moved into town I was trying to start a coffee business. It was slow going so we decided to join forces. After many bottles of wine we realized we needed to upgrade the brand and remove the “paleo” from it. We were finding that the word Paleo was too stigmatizing.
You have very high standards at TGK. Tell us more about those.
Amber: We started this business as a mirror of how we feed ourselves. So we continue to source the best grass-finished and pastured proteins, organic veggies, and high quality fats. Our packaging is 100% recyclable and we waste zero food. We believe wholeheartedly in what we do for others. It’s exactly what we do for our own families.
Melissa: We personally know each and every one of our farmers. Sourcing, sourcing, sourcing. It is SO important. Folks don’t realize how important it is to know what your food eats! When a cow eats grass over grains, you are getting a ton of amazing fatty acids. It is so important for all of us to get those – especially the growing brains in our kiddos.
Explain “paleo” for those of us who might be unfamiliar with the term.
Amber: Paleo is really just eating real whole foods. Make sure you’re focused on quality first! This means pasture raised meats, wild-caught seafood, organic veggies, and good quality fats (stay away from hydrogenated oils!)
Melissa: The idea with Paleo is that our Paleolithic ancestors ate vegetables, meat, fruit, nuts, and seeds. If we eat the same way, we might have better health. In my mind, Paleo is not caveman crazy. It is incredibly similar to the way my grandmother and great grandmother ate. It was basically a meat and 3 veggies. If there was bread, it was homemade and small. Pasta was a side dish, not the main event. Folks don’t realize how much our eating has changed in a very short amount of time. Our grandparents had little gardens out back. Our meals rarely used anything that came out of a box. I know how hard it is to eat well these days. We are all so stretched. That’s why we started TGK.
How has the paleo lifestyle changed your life?
Amber: Carter and I both saw major health improvements very quickly. I had dealt with digestive issues my whole life and Carter was on blood pressure medication at 32. Once we changed our lifestyle with eating clean and began Crossfit, we both saw very quick results. My digestive issues turned around within a few weeks. Carter was off his blood pressure meds within 6 months.
Melissa: I went to undergrad and grad school for nutrition. I fully believed that healthy eating needed to be a lifestyle, not a fad diet. I was very resistant to learning about the Paleo diet. I finally agreed to take a course and I was blown away. The science made sense and then all the testimonials I saw sealed the deal for me. I changed a few things in my diet and within 24 hours I could not believe the difference. I could not believe food could be that powerful. I then started several diet challenges and saw hundreds of folks change their lives. It is incredibly powerful when a 30 year old is able to stop taking cholesterol medication or a mom is able to reduce the insulin she needed for her type-1 diabetes. And of course, it never hurts to lose a few LB’s! The physical transformation these folks saw after 45 days was inspiring!
Where does meal inspiration come from for you?
Amber: I am a “clean the refrigerator out” kind of cook. I love a kitchen sink meal and often turns out to be the best meal! Every time I actually plan out a meal, it just doesn’t seem to be as creative as when I have to come up with something on the fly. I am definitely a “Chopped” kind of chef!
We LOVE the Lunchbox, TGK’s kids’ meals (especially for Back to School!). What inspired the idea and how have you seen it take off?
Amber: We had kids meals when we were modPALEO, but they weren’t curated to be exciting for kids. They were essentially just mini versions of our adult meals. When we rebranded to TGK – Melissa really came up with the idea of creating a bento box-style meal for the kids! We’ve worked really hard to make it food that kids want to eat while keeping kids’ nutrition in mind for the parents’ peace of mind.
Melissa: Eating clean and healthy is time-consuming as we all know. I began making lunches for the kids and saw the little Bento boxes for adult lunches, but it was taking me hours to get it all prepped and put together. We knew we could replicate something like that in our kitchen. We wanted something that made lunch EASY and healthy. Something parents can just toss in a lunchbox and not worry about the quality. We don’t use ANY preservatives so the food is REAL – not a frankenfood like you might find in a Lunchable.
What makes TGK a perfect solution for a busy family?
Amber: We’re all about making life easier – from giving you time back to spend with the family, to making sure that you have the most nutritious three minute meal for the whole family. When life happens, we’ve got your back!
Melissa: I laugh at myself all the time because I really do forget that I have an amazing solution for the annoying kid question, “What’s for dinner?”. I forget that I have a stock of awesome meals in either my refrigerator or freezer. I pull 4-5 of them out, heat them up, and we all eat buffet-style.
I was blown away the first time I did this. The kids LOVED it. And it was an opportunity to taste foods that might not be their favorite. After 1.5 years, I have a kid that now likes guacamole and sweet potatoes! It took me asking her to just try a tiny bite anytime we had it. Now she asks for it!
Don’t give up if your child doesn’t like something that is good for them. Just ask them to try a little. It really does work!
How can we get started eating well with TGK? Any tips for a Smarty’s first order?
Amber: Just go to the thegoodkitchen.com and get started by choosing your meals. Order for adults, for kids, or both! Kids meals can be added to an adult order or ordered on their own. We’ll ship them out the following Monday and they’ll arrive on your doorstep Tuesday in temperature-controlled recyclable packaging. It’s that easy!
Melissa: As a family, I would suggest ordering every other week or once a month. To save money, get the largest size you can store and then freeze what you can’t use right away. The meals still taste amazing when defrosted because of our steam packaging.
Here is how I use the meals: I eat one of our meals for lunch almost every day. So does my guy. It is a huge time saver for us. We both eat a breakfast meal 1-2 times each week. Then we do the family buffet once a week. It is nice to have the meals in a pinch. I don’t feel so overwhelmed knowing that we can cook dinner, order out, or have TGK.
Now for some fun Smarty questions…
Favorite TGK meal?
Amber: Barbacoa with chili dusted sweet potatoes!
Melissa: During our summer menu it is the Jalapeno Chicken Burger. I cannot wait for our winter menu to come out because then I am all over the Pot Roast!
Favorite date night spot?
Favorite place to shop for yourself in Charlotte?
Amber: Boem always treats me right!
Best workout in the QC?
Brewery or wine bar?
Amber: Wine Bar – Rochelle at Vin Master is my girl!
Melissa: Brewery that has wine or gluten free options.
Amber: French fries
Melissa: Tortilla chips + cheese dip
Best day trip?
Amber: The White Water Center
Melissa: Elkin, NC to visit wineries
Family’s favorite fall activity?
Amber: Beach time – any will do, but the whiter the sand and clearer the water, the better!
Melissa: Wineries! I have conned my kids into liking wineries ☺
Each other’s best quality?
Melissa: Amber has incredible passion for her mission. She is relentless!
Finish this sentence…If I could do it again, I would…
Amber: have sought outside help earlier in the business. We have so many great folks surrounding us. I wish I would have been quicker to seek out a mentor, business group, and/or marketing help!
Melissa: go to business school!
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