Posted on Sun, Aug. 13, 2006

Chef service's delicacies taste Just Like Mom's do
A mother-daughter team started from scratch and have created a personal chef service with tastes to suit everyone.

Special to The Miami Herald

Nancy Livingston has always been a good cook. Her life has revolved around food, bringing her family together. So it seemed natural to share her food with other people.

Five years ago, Livingston and her daughter, Ginger, who live in Plantation, opened Just Like Mom's, a personal chef service that offers meal preparation, personalized menu planning and private cooking instruction.

''I'm a really good home cook who wanted a change,'' said Nancy Livingston, a former Broward schools employee. ``In my family, food fixes everything. It's a comfort.''

After seeing an ad for a personal chef network in a magazine, Nancy and Ginger decided to give it a try. They learned the business end and started slowly by networking and cooking in clients' homes.

Ultimately, the duo wanted to cook for more people, which meant they needed a commercial kitchen. They wanted the feeling of a home kitchen, but it needed to be professional. In April, they opened a storefront commercial kitchen in Plantation, where they do all the cooking for their customers.

''We wanted clients to be able to come in and feel warm and welcome,'' Nancy Livingston said. ``The food still feels like it's coming from home.''

The Livingstons do all the cooking at the store. Customers have the option of picking up their meals or having them delivered.

The Livingstons start by having a detailed consultation with a client before preparing menus. Every special dietary need and personal taste are addressed before menu items are proposed. Some clients have favorite recipes they want included. Others are taken from the Just Like Mom's database of more than 700 recipes selected from a variety of sources including magazines, cookbooks and websites. A weekly menu usually includes food for three to five days.

''We are very honest about where our recipes come from,'' Nancy said. ``Some clients give us theirs. They want their comfort food.''

Cooking lessons can be taught at the store or in the client's own kitchen. Recipe and menu planning can be done anywhere in the world online.

Once the women know the client's tastes, they know what kinds of food to suggest. Some people want to consult on every meal, while others want to be surprised. In either case, they are careful not to repeat dishes too often.

''Some people have real issues getting dinner on the table,'' Nancy said. ``The challenge is in the menu planning to keep the clients happy.''

The two women clearly enjoy working together in the kitchen. Each has her own preparation area, staple items and oven.

''We have a lot of fun together,'' said Ginger, 26. ``We laugh a lot.''

Special requests are common for Just Like Mom's. They have done romantic dinners for two, including the table setting and candlelight, and have even taught clients how to set a table.

''People want regular home cooking,'' Ginger said. ``They don't want gourmet food every night. They want food they can raise a family on.''

Just Like Mom's is at 5209 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation. Call 954-581-5346 or visit

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