2622 Brandt School Road, Wexford
724-933-0303 or www.maryleesmeals.com
Mary Lee Linsenmayer has always cooked. From working in her grandparents' long-gone Rochester restaurant to teaching cooking classes at CCAC, she always felt at home in the kitchen. So she asked her husband what he thought of her opening up a restaurant.
"He was all for it," she says, adding with a laugh, "the day his will was probated."
Four years ago, Linsenmayer discovered another business model: a shop where customers come in, assemble several meals at a time and then take them home.
"This is the closest thing to the restaurant I always wanted," says Linsenmayer. "Plus I get to share my love of food and cooking with everyone, from kids to adults."
The original business motto was "Make it, Take it, Learn to Bake it." It signified the three services of the store -- assembling meals from pre-made items; prepared frozen meals to be cooked at home; and culinary instruction.
The shop offers cooking classes, as well as a variety of parties where participants come in, make meals and take them home to store in the freezer. She also holds special sessions for scout groups, many of whom have earned their cooking badges in her store.
"I love having the kids in here," she says. "Kids love to play with their food. They get a greater appreciation and a greater willingness to try new things when they actually have a hand in preparing it."
While she still has some customers who make their own meals in her spacious storefront, most people love the "take it" aspect, snapping up Linsenmayer's homemade meals.
"That's where the Fairy Godchef comes in," Linsenmayer says. "You order the meals you want from our monthly menu, and by the time you [arrive for pick up], they'll be assembled in the number of portions that you want and ready to go right into your freezer."
This month, for example, customers can choose from Sautéed Beef with Bacon Balsamic Drizzle, French Onion Oven-Fried Chicken, and Sunday Pork with Thyme and Cannellini Beans. The meals range from $18-20 for three portions (size can be adjusted). She also takes cookies orders online or by phone and they can be shipped to the customer or picked up at the store.
"We don't have a corporate structure," says Linsenmayer. "We love to cook and can do pretty much anything our customers need. In fact, if you're here when we're not open and the lights are on, just knock on the window and we'll be glad to help you out."