An Interview with Chef Lisa

Lisa Heidelberg never thought owning her own business was in the cards. She enjoyed cooking for her family and experimenting with different recipes, but it wasn’t until the backlash of a down economy that she considered starting a business. Below is a Q&A with Chef Lisa on life, food, and how being a grant recipient has impacted her business.

1. What is the name of your business and how long have you been in operation?

My business is Dinner Is Served By Lisa, Personal Chef and Catering Services. I have been in business since September 2012. I am also co-owner of the gourmet farm-t0-plate food truck called One Farmer One Chef since September 13, 2015.

2. How did your business come to be?

The idea of my business came about when I became a victim of corporate America and lost my job. As I tried to come to grips with  what was at the time a devastating life event, I read a small orange insert in my unemployment packet that said “Have you ever thought of starting a business in PA? Come to this free class to find out more.”  I thought that’s all good and well, but thinking of an actual business I could do escaped me at the time. Regardless, I decided attending the class couldn’t hurt. I left feeling inspired, but a little overwhelmed! My research indicated breaking into the restaurant and catering business was difficult and expensive. But two words kept reappearing and they stuck with me – personal chef. I hadn’t heard the term before and initial thought it was synonymous with “private chef”, or someone who typically lives on-premise to cook (think: celebrity style). It was an interesting concept so I decided to pursue it. But, as luck would have it, I landed a corporate job with Presque Isle Downs and Casino and once again settled into “regular” life as a single mom. So, it was definitely an up and down experience to get the business off the ground.

3. So what is a personal chef, exactly?

Personal chefs have multiple clients that they prepare either a one time meal, or a few days or weeks-worth of packaged meals that are customized for the client’s needs and taste. Cooking in the client’s home also allows you to eliminate the immediate expense of a professional kitchen, which is a hefty price tag. Being a personal chef allows for greater creativity and flexibility as well.

4. Who is one of your biggest supporters or inspirations for the business?

Well, as a mom, I spent over 20 years preparing soulful delicious and nutritious means for my beautiful daughter. Little did I know that I was in the middle of on the job training! I also found out that although I showed no interest in my Grandma Nettie’s culinary prowess (except for full blown consumption of the delectable results), I actually had graduated from the CIG – what a lovingly refer to as the Culinary Institute of Gram. She was definitely my biggest supporter in everything and second to her is my daughter/guinea pig Brittany.

5. How did you hear about the Wallerstein Grant?

I was approached with an inquiry to cater a small corporate luncheon. Although the event was cancelled, the point of contact asked me more about my business and shared that she thought I should submit an application for the grant. I went to the WRT website, found the information and submitted the application, never expecting anything really. Needless to say, I’m so pleased that I followed through with the process because just completing the application forces you to take a look at your business and where and what would help you make it successful. I will forever be so honored and grateful that the panel saw something in me and my business. Winning the grant has gone far and above the money in helping me. The knowledge, experience , network and support from The Women’s Roundtable and its membership is amazing!!

6. How has the grant helped your business?

In terms of tangible things, the grant helped me purchase two industry “boxes” that allow me to transport food safely from my kitchen to the client/event and to hold the food at a safe temperature for hours. In addition, I’ve been able to work with other business owners to increase my web and social media presence. Lastly, the grant helped me to secure partnership in my new food truck business. In case it’s not obvious, I wanted s-t-r-e-t-c-h each dollar! It’s been a true blessing!

7. If you could give one piece of advice to fellow women in the Erie community, what would it be?

One piece of advice? That’s hard! I would have to say: don’t settle, believe in your vision, and never forget those along the journey.

8. Anything else you’d like to say?

Just the most sincere thank you for making this grant possible to women business owners in this community. And of course, if you are new in your business (less than 5yrs), APPLY!

Interested in learning more about the Gerry B. Wallerstein Fund and the grant application? You can view the application and grant requirements or learn more about the fund.