Lilly’s Table, a weekly subscription service that offers seasonal recipes and meal plans, is the brainchild of a former personal chef, Lilly Steirer. Her idea is very near and dear to my heart, as a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and a frequent shopper at local farmer’s markets. Lilly’s Table makes it easier to incorporate local ingredients into your cooking by providing a weekly meal plan of seasonal recipes along with a host of other interesting offerings including a customized shopping list and ideas on how to use leftovers.
Lilly’s embrace of digital technology as a medium for spreading her passion and knowledge about eating locally and seasonally to a wider audience, despite any technological background, is truly inspiring. In our interview, she spoke about what inspired her and what she has learned along the way in launching Lilly’s Table. Meet Lilly Steirer.
Lilly Steirer: As a personal chef I had several clients with farm shares and often I would cook the same day their CSA box arrived. I loved to work with such fresh produce, but often had no clue what was available until I was looking at it. I would come prepared with menus based on what was probably coming while allowing myself flexibility for anything.
When your farm share arrives with two stalks of rhubarb, three heads of lettuce and four different types of dark leafy greens, what will you do? Some people don’t enjoy the challenge of what a CSA brings despite their desire to eat well and eat locally. Some even discontinue their farm share because they are wanting more familiar produce or they struggle with the sometimes unusual quantities. With Lilly’s Table, I hope to answer the question of what’s for dinner based on what is in season, especially if it is new and unique. I want eating from the earth to be more exciting and inspiring.
CA: What is your business model?
LS: As awareness of eating more sustainably evolves and grows, I want to share my knowledge in a manner that reaches out to more than just the handle of families I worked for as a personal chef. When I did meal planning for them it was time consuming and costly for my clients. Lilly’s Table allows for more people to use my meal planning services affordably and to be able to adapt each recipe to what produce is available to them personally or what they may be craving.
CA: How do users interact with Lilly’s Table?
LS: When you log in to Lilly’s Table you are welcomed with the current week of meals. You can scan through the photos and descriptions to choose individual recipes or full meals. With just a click, your selection will go to either your current shopping list or your personal recipe book. The shopping list is categorized so your grocery trip will be quick. Your kitchen will then be stocked with what you need to easily prepare a week of deliciousness.
CA: How do you address different dietary needs?
LS: Beyond seasonal cuisine, the recipes focus on allergens and dietary preferences. Every recipe indicates whether it can be made dairy-free, nut-free, or gluten-free. Also, dietary choices such as vegan, vegetarian, and low-glycemic are clearly labeled. The recipes are easily searched through these tags.
CA: What are some of your favorite features of the site?
LS: I love the simplicity of the recipe format and the way the recipes play off of each other each week. At a glance you can learn a lot about the recipe including dietary preferences, the total time, quick nutrition info, and there is even a place to write notes. The recipes are usually basic so people can take the simplicity and create the dish according to the produce available.
The meals in each week’s plan interact with each other by using similar ingredients or leftovers in a new way, such as a dinner of Roasted Apricot Chicken being made into an Apricot & Pistachio Chicken Salad you can take for lunch. I also enjoy the organized shopping list and I am excited about some of the developments we have planned, which will make it even more interactive.
CA: Who and how large is your target market?
LS: The target market are those folks who are eating straight from the earth. They may subscribe to a CSA Farm Share, tend their own garden or shop at Farmers Markets. The recipes are based on the general seasons of the United States. However, we have subscribers from as far away as the UK and Ireland.
CA: What are the most interesting, unexpected things you have learned?
LS: I had no idea how little I knew about how to take a photo of food when I began this project. It sits still, but not for long since it melts, wilts, fades or I swear whimpers as you try to figure out lighting, plating and making something that tastes good actually look drool worthy. I am certainly still figuring it out, but it has been an unexpected joy for me. (CA: Looks pretty good to me:)
I have also been learning more about the technical elements. Fortunately, Grant Blakeman who designed the site, clearly has a lot of patience and is great at helping me. His design is so smart and stunning that I want the recipes and photos to match that level of quality.
CA: What have been your greatest challenges?
LS: I had a baby last year, just before we launched and I am constantly challenged with how to balance both. I tease that it was like having twins, since they each have certain demands and need my attention. Because of that, I have not prioritized marketing and find this especially challenging. There are some fans helping get the word out, but I look forward to having more people in the kitchen, cooking seasonally, eating consciously and enjoying life and food that much more.