Why this top Austin chef is now running a meal delivery company

12:00 a.m. Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Austin360 Eats
This kiwi salad is one of the beach-inspired eats you can find at Lucky Lime. Contributed by Lucky Lime

Want to get a meal from one of Austin’s top chefs without leaving your house? Rebecca Meeker was the executive chef of Jeffrey’s and Josephine House for five years before deciding last year to take a step out of professional kitchens and into a less shiny commissary, where she’s launched Lucky Lime, a meal delivery service that drops off healthy, chef-driven food once a week to customers across the city.

The menu focuses on good-for-you food “that you’d want to eat on a beach,” Meeker says, and is inspired by her years cooking in high-end Asian and French kitchens in Taiwan and New York. “I was at Jeffrey’s for five years, and it was where it needed to be. I felt confident that they could take over and grow it,” she says. “I had this big overwhelming feeling that I needed to do something different this year.”

She teamed up with Chris Duty, a startup founder and investor who is interested in healthy cooking, to start Lucky Lime. Instead of seeking out investors to go big, they went small, creating a curated menu and relying mostly on word-of-mouth advertising. “It’s still just an idea in a space where it can start to grow,” she says.

She had to figure out how to develop meals that would be OK in a fridge for a day before being delivered to customers’ homes or offices, which was her biggest learning curve. She figured out that cooking the rice in coconut milk would help its texture in the cold storage, and that you couldn’t use olive oil in the vinaigrettes because it solidifies in the cold.

In the height of summer, she’s serving lighter fare, such as collard green wraps filled with mango chicken salad or pineapple barbecue steak, but who knows how it will change this fall and winter. The poke salad will likely always be on the menu because it’s such a bestseller, but after a recent trip to Baja Mexico, she wants to incorporate some Mexicali dishes inspired by the hybrid farm-restaurants she enjoyed while she was there. “The great thing is that I can change it every week,” she says.

Meeker calls this style of business a “floating restaurant,” inspired by the likes of the recently closed Maple in New York from chef David Chang. It’s the fastest way for a chef to prepare the things he or she wants to cook, without getting bogged down in building permits and loans to open a physical space. “The overhead is non-existent compared to other restaurants,” she says.

At some point, Meeker might add a to-go counter so people can get the food without ordering ahead, but right now, customers have to place an order online at www.eatluckylime.com on Friday for a Monday delivery. They deliver all over the Austin area, and the neighborhoods placing the most orders are 78704 and 78701. Through her Mindful Lunches program, Meeker says she hopes to tap into Austin’s lucrative office catering business, where companies order meals for their employees.

Papi’s Kitchen recently ceased the delivery part of its business, which we wrote about in April as one of Austin’s first virtual restaurants. Owner Fernando Saralegui says he hopes to continue to build the brand with events and other marketing avenues.