Independent chefs say pandemic has been good for business


What’s for dinner?

During covid times, that question became challenging for many as restrictions, lockdowns and mandated restaurant closures occurred more than once.

Meet three Pittsburgh-area chefs — not affiliated with restaurants — providing home-cooked meals delivered to your door.


Jake Stewart works out of a kitchen in Springdale but is on the move.

Finding he had a lot of time on his hands during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, Stewart created a home-delivery business using lifelong cooking skills learned from his mother.

He said JSMenusPGH was “created” because of covid.

“I cook with my heart, and my goal is to provide some sort of happiness or comfort through my meals,” said Stewart, 24, of Aspinwall.

A native of Indiana Township and a Fox Chapel Area High School grad, Stewart works out of a certified commercial church kitchen in Springdale.

His made-from-scratch meals, with an emphasis on dough items such as Detroit pizzas, handmade pastas and freshly baked hoagie rolls, are in demand.

Orders must be placed at least a day ahead on his website.

“It’s all from scratch, and I decided to focus my menu on what I felt I did best and open up to the public and provide comforting meals to more than just my friends circle,” Stewart said.

Prices range from $20 to $70.

Organic ingredients are available. There are separately themed large-pan meals of brisket, barbecue, pasta, pizza and more priced at $125.

Frequent customer Jen Evashavik of Aspinwall said she stumbled across Jake’s food pics on Instagram and decided to order.

“It’s been great to have someone deliver homemade meals to the house,” Evashavik said. “I support local businesses all of the time.”

Delivery areas include the Springdale/Lower Valley area, O’Hara, Aspinwall and neighboring towns, Squirrel Hill and other areas.

For more information, visit:

Nicole’s Kitchen

Nicole Bell found her love of cooking at 12.

“I was reading cookbooks when my friends were reading teen magazines,” said Bell, 45, about growing up in Shaler.

Her late grandmother inspired her love of cooking.

“She always cooked from scratch, and presentation was key,” Bell said.

Bell cooks out of a certified kitchen in Etna. She’s been delivering meals to busy people for more than a decade.

“I had my first job in a kitchen when I was 16. Spent six years in the industry, burned out, took an office job for six years, then made my way back to the kitchen — this time on my terms,” Bell said.

Bell specializes in home-cooked comfort food such as beef stroganoff, crabcakes, chicken picatta, twice baked potatoes and stuffed cabbage.

“I cook foods that take time to make right,” Bell said.

Bell’s customers run the gamut from busy soccer moms to a handful of Steelers.

She said many of her clients are tired of takeout.

“I’ve been busier in 2020 than 2019,” Bell said. “Weekly meal service has really picked up as people discovered the value of the service and not wanting to go to the grocery store or cook.”

Debra Ladley of Hampton Township has received weekly meal deliveries from Nicole for more than six years.

“She gives us a core of good healthy and varied meals,” Ladley said. “She’s delivering reduced-sodium, customized meals to my parents, too. We love the fresh fish, baked ziti, mac and cheese and fried shrimp.

Prices range from $17.50 to $35 per serving.

For more information, visit

Allianna’s Kitchen

Allianna Schneider, 26, of Pine Township is a high-end personal chef focusing on “nutrient dense,” flavorful foods.

A former volunteer firefighter, paramedic and nanny, Schneider embraced a paleo-based nutritional protocol after experiencing autoimmune symptoms from a young age.

“This change transformed my life,” Schneider said. “My passion and purpose is to help others do the same.”

Schneider earned a holistic health coaching certificate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and has been a personal chef for about two years.

Past customized client meal plans have included the following diets: Paleo, HGC, autoimmune protocol, vegan and pescetarian.

“Most of my clients are here because they want to eat healthy,” Schneider said, “and depending on their goals, we come up with a meal plan together. Everything is customized.”

Schneider declined to provide a price range for her services, which include delivering organic ready-to-eat meals and private, in-house cooking.

“My clients see their health as an investment,” Schneider said. “Pricing is dependent on what they are here for.”

She said the pandemic has boosted her bookings.

“Dining in your home is much more comfortable,” Schneider said. “We come in, set up, cook, serve and clean up. My business revenue has increased by 600% in the last year,” she said.

Schneider posts and blogs most of her creations on her website. She said the Thai chicken mushroom soup is popular.

“I share all of my recipes because not everyone can afford my services, and I want everyone to benefit from my services.”

For more information visit:

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joyce at 724-226-7725 , or via Twitter .

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