Of the many gloom-and-doom observations concerning our modern existence, the sense that life is speeding up is a well-worn drum. While piloting our vehicles home from work we field a final call, dictate e-mails, remind our kids (via voice text) to do their homework, Google the weather, purchase tickets for the concert we accidentally forgot about and so on.
In this frenetic lifestyle many a stalwart tradition winds up sacrificed to the undertow. In the opinion of one local mother, Sarah Nycum, the most deplorable of these losses is the once sanctimonious family dinner—that nightly occasion whereat families would gather around the dining room table before a home-cooked meal and share the day’s adventures. So disturbed by this trend was Nycum, she founded a company based upon the notion of not only restoring the familial supper, but giving time-short families the ability to enjoy it minus the hassle of planning the dinner, going to the grocery store, then prepping and finally, cooking the meal.
The result? A one-stop, customizable, hands-on, families first catering service: Nycum Company.
“Back in 2010, when my husband and I had our first child, we made the tough financial decision that, as kids are only little once, I’d be a stay-at-home mom,” says Nycum. This choice proved crucial to the development of Nycum Company. “Right away, I saw how blessed I was to be able to stay home with my child, but also, could compare my own experience with that of friends and other family members,” she says.
Before becoming a mother, with her career as a full-time corporate marketer/HR agent and a husband working as a high school administrator, Nycum was well aware of the effort putting together a homemade dish each night required. After a long day at work and the commute home, cooking was less joyous, more of a chore. Couple those professional obligations with the non-stop duties of parenting, and the inconvenience factor went through the roof. “I could see friends struggling,” says Nycum. “You get off after a 10-hour day and race across town and pick your daughter up from ballet practice, and then race over and pick your son up from soccer and after all that, ‘What do you do?’ There’s no time to cook a meal—you wind up resorting to fast food. And this becomes routine.”
Then there were the elderly relatives. “I had a relative that, due to her failing sight, could no longer cook,” Nycum says. “She and her husband had this beautiful kitchen, wherein she’d spent so much of her life preparing wonderful meals, and they were eating out every night. She wanted to cook, wanted to eat a hardy meal in her own home, but couldn’t.”
So Nycum started helping out. Once or twice a week she’d put together meals and deliver them to her friends-in-need:
The response was overwhelming gratitude and encouragement. The fare was exquisite, the reclaimed time soothing to the point of inspirational. Word spread fast that Nycum was providing meals for numerous friends and family. “Friends were urging me to start a business helping people in this way,” she says. “Without meaning to, they’d forgotten what a cherished ritual the dinner with the family really was.”
Following this advice, after five years of casual service, this past July, Nycum Company officially cut the ribbon.
Nycum likes to emphasize her company’s affordable, hands-on approach. “I want prospective clients to call me,” she says. “That way, I can get to know them—if anyone has allergies; what they like, don’t like; favorite dishes; budgetary concerns and so on. Once I determine a client’s needs, we explore the possibilities from there.”
These possibilities include choosing from a variety of existing menu options—such as fresh artichoke dip, a plethora of garden salads, shrimp and grits, cheesecake—or working with Nycum to customize a menu from scratch, or simply opting to have Nycum work her creative magic and do it all (meals are thematic and typically include an appetizer, soup and/or salad, two entrees and a dessert).
Once the menu has been designed, Nycum hand-selects produce from local farmers, farmer’s markets and artisanal shops. She prepares the meals with homemade care and delivers them directly to the client’s door. Post-feasting, clients provide Nycum Company with feedback, which is tracked and used to create an ideal menu schedule. “What I want more than anything is for our clients to be able to experience a restaurant quality meal prepared with locally sourced ingredients they can trust at a price that won’t break the budget—and all of this around their own kitchen table,” says Nycum. “I want to help people take those couple of hours of time back, and help them use that time to bring their families closer together.”
As the saying goes: Nothing brings people together like a good meal.