There’s something covert going on in a corner of Lakeside Village. People move in and out all day of a small shop. Each with a secret. They’re meeting to participate in something usually performed at home.
Yes, they’re preparing meals.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Covert Kitchen creates recipes, purchases fresh ingredients, and performs all the chopping and cutting. Customers book time in the kitchen to put together ingredients to their taste, wrap and go. The actual cooking or baking then takes place at home. While slightly more expensive than home prepared meals, the Kitchen saves customers time and trouble shopping and chopping.
The Covert Kitchen is owned by Lakeland residents Lori Allen and Susan Peck. The pair were busy businesswomen and mothers who purchased a My Girlfriends Kitchen franchise to stay closer to home. Allen said she and Peck fell in love with the “whole girlfriend concept.” “It’s women supporting other women and families.”
They recently had a business upheaval when the My Girlfriends Kitchen concept was sold to a competitor. The new franchisor wanted to take the company into a different direction. That led Allen and Peck to create the Covert Kitchen.
They didn’t want to stray far from what they had accomplished with My Girlfriend’s Kitchen. The Lakeland location had been the company’s top selling store. So they kept what worked: personal service, locally created and tested recipes with a “southern twist,” and a willingness to innovate.
The “Girlfriends Kitchen” name might have caused a few men to pass by the store, but Allen says “Our market is anyone who eats dinner.” She added that “It’s not about learning to cook. It’s about saving time and drudgery.”
She said their recipes focus on “healthy, balanced, nutritious meals.” It’s just like cooking at home, except that ingredients are chopped, cut, portioned, chopped and you don’t have to wash the dishes or store left overs.
Allen said their customers have become friends. She said groups will come in together to make it a special event. She emphasized it isn’t just women as some men come in on their own or with their girlfriends on date night.
Each month the Kitchen features around 14 different recipes at the seven preparation stations. There are two meal sizes: Petite feeds 2-3 and Grande feeds 4-6. Customers book station time and get to immediately take home what they prepare. Some come in once a month and prepare 10 meals to freeze while others stop by more often to prepare three or four at a time.
Allen said the biggest misconception the company has had to face was that they were a luxury. She said the meal prices are below the cost of eating out. Allen said a lot of the customers most appreciate the final ingredient: time, “They’re getting more time with their family while spending less time in the kitchen.” The Covert Kitchen staff will even prepare and wrap for customers who want to save even more time. Allen said customers are “Putting time back in their schedule. And you can’t put a price on that.”
In addition to meal preparation, the Covert Kitchen has added another business under the same roof. Cake Designer Andrea Reed has brought her business, Sweet Cakes, to the Covert Kitchen. Reed will sell cupcakes, cookies, and cakes. All made at the fully working kitchen in the back of the business. Reed has taught cake decorating classes for adults at the shop. Allen said she hopes to add holiday cookie classes and programs for children. “She’s fabulous with kids,” Allen said.
For meal menus and prices see the company’s website at www.mycovertkitchen.com. Reservation and orders can be placed at 863.688.9596 and soon at the website.