Sunday Spotlight: Felicia Nowling will take over your kitchen and leave a fully stocked fridge
As a child, when other kids were watching Saturday morning cartoons, Felicia Nowling was watching cooking shows. At the age of six, she saw a television program about The Culinary Institute of America and promptly told her mother that she would go there one day.
Nowling fulfilled her early proclamation and proceeded to follow a career arc that punched every well-regarded ticket in the food and hospitality industry: she earned a scholarship to attend The Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, New York; a bachelor’s degree in restaurant management from Johnson & Wales University and a Master of Science in Hospitality Management from Florida International University. Over the course of two decades, she held a range of positions in restaurant, banquet and hotel management.
Following the birth of her second child, Nowling decided to leave her career behind to be a full-time parent. While she felt fortunate to have the opportunity to make that choice, she struggled to reconcile her earlier identity as a career-driven individual with her new role as mom.
“When I was a stay-at-home mom, I pretty much lost who I was. All I knew was my child,” she said, adding that she lost a lot of confidence in herself. “I had to relearn who I was.”
It was Nowling’s husband who encouraged her to rediscover her passion for food and cooking. When Nowling’s youngest child started kindergarten, she started to seriously consider returning to the industry both to fulfill her professional interests and to re-establish her identity separate from her children. However, like so many other industries, the hotel industry was not conducive to balancing work and family life.
Nowling realized that she couldn’t maintain the career pace and intensity of her previous life, along with kids and the lifestyle that she and her husband wanted. So, she got creative. She came up with a business plan that would suit her lifestyle, fulfill her passion for cooking and serve a need for others. Creative Meals by Chef Felicia was born.
Nowling established Creative Meals three years ago with the goal of providing in-home-prepared meals for families. “A lot of people don’t understand the time that goes into preparing a meal,” Nowling said, noting the meal planning, shopping for ingredients, and prep work that happens before any cooking takes place. While the hugely popular make-at-home meal kits such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh eliminate much of the busy work, Nowling said those services don’t solve for people who don’t have time to cook, and can also be frustrating for novice cooks who may struggle to prepare the recipes in the 30-minute window that many of the services promise.
When a client signs up for Creative Meals, Nowling first holds a consultation with them to understand their family’s needs and preferences. She advises on her own availability and then makes arrangements for when to come to the client’s house. Nowling does all the prep work and cooking within each client’s home.
“I’m usually there for about four hours. I take over their kitchen, cook, cool, package and clean up.” Once Nowling leaves, the client’s fridge is fully stocked with 20 individually portioned meals for the week that can quickly be reheated.
The majority of Nowling’s customers are families of four, in which both adults in the home are working full time. Most of her clients reside in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. She describes her meals as comfort food, elevated. A favorite is zucchini ravioli served with grilled chicken or salmon.
Nowling finds that she can grow most as a chef when clients have dietary restrictions. “The more restrictions there are, the more creative I have to be in order to not compromise on taste and flavor.”
After cooking all week for multiple families, how does Nowling take care of feeding her own family? Nowling said with a smile, “that’s where my husband comes in.”