Dinner can be a family affair, a mid-week date night or just a relaxing evening where you create something special.
Americans are increasingly sophisticated about- and appreciative of-good food. They also have become very conscious of what ingredients go into it. So it was just a matter of time before a brilliant food service concept would emerge that combines the quality and culinary artistry of the personal chef with the convenience of cooking a fresh, restaurant quality do-it-yourself meal at home. Madison & Rayne, a Chicago-based company has created just such a formula, and it has wide appeal across demographics, lifestyles and income levels.
"Our concept is really quite straightforward," said Melanie Mityas, co-founder of Madison & Rayne. "We design delicious and creative contemporary American dishes, prepare all of the ingredients in our kitchen and deliver them, ready to cook, to our customers, who prepare the meals using our step by step directions. Our meals generally take from between 15 and 30 minutes from start to table, using a minimal amount of pots, pans and utensils. Easy to cook, easy to clean up and delicious to eat-Madison & Rayne is a perfect solution for people who like to eat really good, wholesome food at home but don't have the time or energy to shop for the ingredients and do everything from scratch. We do the hard work and our customers do the fun, easy tasks."
Among the many people who have adopted the Madison and Rayne lifestyle are singles who want to eat good food but don't want to go to restaurants by themselves; families who have small children and have difficulty taking them to more upscale restaurants; people who enjoy the quiet and privacy of their own homes, but like to eat well; and those who are entertaining guests and want to serve an exciting, tasty meal without spending too much time and money to put it together.
All meals are designed by company co-founder, Chef Josh Jones, a professional chef who has earned his stripes at such highly regarded Chicago restaurants as Spring, where he was Chef du Cuisine for Shawn McClain. "My goal is to bring contemporary American cuisine-which nowadays means food with many global influences-into the homes of food lovers so that they can enjoy exciting meals that transform the typical dinner into a very enticing one."
Mityas and Jones have created a company that turns customers into do-it-yourself personal chefs. After watching countless cooking shows where a gorgeous meal is put together within a matter of minutes, they realized that the ease and convenience of cooking show preparation - with pre-measured, pre-marinated, washed, chopped, sliced, and ready for assembly ingredients - are all that a person needs to create a wonderful dinner.
"Think personal shopper, personal assistant, and personal delivery all rolled into one," said Mityas. "Minimal prep and minimal clean-up means that your valuable time is better spent cooking and enjoying your dinner. Mealtime should fit seamlessly into your day: we give you all the tools you need to make that happen."
Madison & Rayne has become a win-win solution for families. On the one hand, parents can begin to introduce their children to a new palette of flavors and help develop their love of good food. On the other hand, they can simply enjoy a great meal for two while preparing something else for their children who are not ready for these more sophisticated tastes. "We believe that parents shouldn't have to sacrifice their culinary pleasure simply because the children still want basic, kid-friendly foods," said Jones. "For older couples, the joy of eating good, fresh food without having to devote so much time and effort is also a great advantage. "These are not run-of-the mill dishes; these are professionally created for people who know about food and want to enjoy it at home."
Many menu options; the menu changes every two weeks, with special holiday menus
There are many popular, signature dishes that are always on the menu, but Madison & Rayne also add many special items on a bi-weekly basis. All of the dishes are based on seasonality and many ingredients are locally sourced, so customers always cook with fresh ingredients that are at their peak. The meals are delivered to customers' homes once a week. Everything is packed in airtight containers (which are recycled) and all ingredients are chopped, the sauces and stocks are already prepared, and each ingredient is labeled so that the preparation is step-by-step and fool-proof. Dishes can be ordered with gluten-free options and many can be ordered as vegetarian dishes. Also, customers with food allergies can request substitute ingredients.
Signature dishes, which range in price from $15-$17 per person (portions are generous but not over-indulgent), include Sweet Soy Glazed Chicken, warm egg noodle salad, bok choy, chopped peanuts; Shrimp Tacos, chimichurri, pickled corn and kale slaw, chickpea and pimento pepper dip; Duroc Pork Chop, kimchi, purple cauliflower, crispy rice noodles, soy sesame; and Blackened Tilapia, corn and cheddar fritters, shaved Brussels sprout salad, green tomatoes, mustard aioli.
Seasonal dishes currently on the late winter menu, priced from $15-$18 per person, include Tamarind Marinated Flank Steak, limestone bibb lettuce, cucumber, fresh herbs; Crispy Flatbread, fig jam, braised duck leg, truffled goat cheese, toasted pumpkin seed and apple salad; Roasted Amish Chicken Breast, candied nuts, goat cheese, arugula, quinoa; and Crispy Pork Belly, chioaga beets, mejdool date mostarda, frisée, pistachios.
Additional items that are always on the menu include Michigan Greens with radish, pumpkin seeds, lemon vinaigrette; Fingerling Potatoes, roasted tomatoes, herbs; Demi-baguettes from Red Hen Bakery; and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Madison & Rayne also prepare special holiday menus for home entertaining. For example, the recent Valentine's Day 2014 menu featured a three-course feast priced at $28 per person. It included Roasted Chestnut Soup with pickled shallots and black truffle oil; Ricotta Gnudi with braised Amish chicken, shishito peppers and preserved lemon; and flourless chocolate cake with fig jam.
Easy and Convenient
"All you have to do is go to www.madisonandrayne.com, select the number of servings you want for each meal and note food preferences and allergies," said Jones. "We will adjust the menu to accommodate your tastes. We always have vegetarian options and most dishes can be prepared with alternative protein. All meals are balanced and we use fresh, never frozen, products that are as local as possible. New seasonal dishes are added every two weeks."
Chef Jones sources high-quality meat, vegetables and grains from local farms and maintains a strong commitment to using organic and sustainable products. Orders are made weekly by Saturday and delivered, every Tuesday. There is no cost for delivery. Meals are delivered to your door in a temperature-controlled reusable tote bag. They also encourage recycling.
Madison & Rayne has thought of everything. They try to keep clean-up to a minimum. Most meals only take between one or two pans. They provide very detailed recipe cards that make it next to impossible to screw up. All ingredients are clearly labeled in individual containers. You control the amount of spice and seasoning. It's fun and easy and most meals take only between 15-30 minutes to prepare. The containers in which the food comes are easy to rinse and you return them with the tote when your next order is delivered. They even provide a hotline that's manned Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. just in case customers have a question. Voice messages are returned promptly.
About Melanie Mityas and Josh Jones
Melanie Mityas and Josh Jones first met in 2008 at nationally acclaimed Spring Restaurant in Chicago. Josh was the Chef de Cuisine and Melanie a frequent customer. They both share a passion for great food and wanted to create a service that would allow everyone to Rediscover Dinner at home.
"I enjoy cooking but it does not come naturally to me," said Mityas. "As a working mom, I was often struggling to get a good dinner on the table for my family. There were some weeks when I totally had my act together - found healthy recipes, prepared a grocery list, went to the store and bought everything I needed - but then I would get home late from work and did not have enough time to prepare the meal. Or I would forget to marinate the meat the night before. I often watched cooking shows and it looked so easy. Wouldn't it be nice to have all of my ingredients prepared in tiny dishes so that I could just do the cooking part and skip the prep and the clean-up? My frustration sparked the idea for our business."
"The Chicago food scene is very vibrant. People in this city are accustomed to having access to a range of restaurants serving high-quality food prepared with fresh local ingredients," said Jones. "Why shouldn't they enjoy this same experience in the comfort of their own home - whether they are cooking for themselves, their spouse and kids, or a dinner party of friends? Not lukewarm takeout or prepared food made a day or two ago, but a fresh meal that they can easily prepare. My hope is that Madison & Rayne helps people rediscover (or discover for the first time) how fun and rewarding it can be to cook a really great meal."
Jones has been a dynamic culinary talent in the restaurant industry since the age of 15, when he went to work in a professional kitchen with Chef Joel Finley of 302 West. Jones' success there led him to attend the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated at the top of his class. Following graduation, Jones worked at Spring and quickly moved his way up the ranks to Chef du Cuisine.Jones is dedicated to using locally sourced produce and sustainable products. He has a meticulous eye for quality, and has consistently created balanced menus that represent his passion for unique, delicious cuisine. Jones is thrilled to partner with Madison & Rayne in order to bring his culinary vision to home kitchens.