She was supposed to be good at sales — at least that’s what personal chef Stacey Weber heard constantly.
But after earning her communications and marketing degree, Weber realized the people telling her that were wrong.
“Everyone said I’d be good at it. But I hated it,” Weber recalled of her first sales industry job. “I don’t like selling anything … except food.”
So it made sense when she opened Eat by Stacey Weber, her Phoenix business through which she offers prepared meals, catering and personal chef services, in 2007.
Here, Weber uses her aptitude in a channel that is a passion she’s had since she was a child alongside her grandmother in the kitchen.
Growing up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Weber’s grandparents stayed with her family every summer. Weber was close to her grandmother, who spent all day cooking hearty dishes like fresh pretzels, roasted chicken and an array of tasty baked goods.
This, Weber said, sparked her unexpected foray into a culinary career.
“She was an incredible home cook. I feel like it resonated with me at a young age. I was like a sponge,” Weber said.
Working in restaurants during college further enhanced this interest. So did studying in Italy and getting exposure to a cuisine-driven culture.
“I was so intrigued by the arts growing up — painting, sculpture … but I was never good at it,” Weber said. “But cooking came so easy to me. I felt like it was my art.”
When she arrived in Arizona, Weber worked as a server at a restaurant and did a lot of home entertaining with co-workers and friends. The feedback urged her to take her career into her own spatulas.
“People asked me where I got my recipes, but I was making them up,” Weber said. “I felt like this was the right time for me.”
From a single dad to Arizona Cardinals
Weber wrote a business plan for a personal chef company. At the time, it was not as saturated a field as it is today, she said.
Her first client was a single dad. Weber went to his house and prepared meals for the week. Soon, she gained more clients.
In Eat’s early years, Weber supplemented her income by working at a high-end boutique in the DC Ranch area of Scottsdale. Weber figured this would be a spot that attracted clientele who would want and who could afford a personal chef. She kept her business cards handy and gave them out.
“It was unintentional marketing, I guess,” she said.
It worked. More clients meant Weber could focus on Eat full-time. Over the years, however, Weber found herself maxed out, serving two or three families daily. This led to opening her Eat storefront and commercial kitchen in 2015, which allowed people to come by and grab her signature favorites — like salmon burgers, breakfast burritos, soups, snacks and bakery items from her freezer or grab-and-go sections.
Many customers use her online ordering and delivery option, which came in handy during the pandemic. Weber’s catering side also has steadily grown.
Since opening, Eat has experienced an average growth of 20% each year, Weber said. In 2019, it grossed more than $1 million.
This has made Weber part of a global prepared meal delivery industry that was valued at $3.74 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach $11.3 billion by 2027, according to BrandEssence Market Research.
Several of Weber’s early clients are still with her today. Leslee Allen is one of them.
Allen discovered Weber about a decade ago when the builder of her Phoenix home gave her a gift certificate to use for a personal chef. When Allen reached out to Weber, the conversation evolved into focusing on how to feed her family and young kids with healthier dishes.
Soon, Weber was coming over once or twice a week to make their meals.
“She was so delightful, so knowledgeable. The food was amazing and it felt so good to give the kids healthy meals when they were so young and busy,” Allen said.
Over the years Allen has used Weber for events ranging from hosting business dinners for her husband’s company to brunch for their 13-year-old daughter and her girlfriends. Weber remains Allen’s go-to for catered parties and events, and she visits the Eat storefront regularly to get prepared meals and other treats. The chicken teriyaki, salmon burger and breakfast burrito are among her family’s favorites.
“It’s great to have somewhere you can go where you know you’re getting a satisfying and healthy meal and you don’t have to question what you’re getting,” Allen said. “Stacey has grown her business by being her and being good at what she does.”
Weber always had a knack for making healthy dishes taste as indulgent as their less-conscientious counterparts. Relying on seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, Weber’s prepared meals appealed to the mainstream who drop in or order online.
Around the same time Weber opened her storefront, she started working as the executive chef for the Arizona Cardinals. This is where that talent really came into play. It’s also where much of her inspiration for her creations was honed and drawn from.
She figures out ways to incorporate a healthy approach in preparing classic comfort food items. Weber doesn’t use anything with preservatives or hidden food dyes and looks for clean ingredients. She adds dried cherries on salads and sprinkles hemp seeds where she can to sneak in foods that are tasty while increasing nutritional value, she said. This includes using better oils to fry food if fried food must be on the menu.
“These guys love Mexican food, French fries… they eat like kids, kind of,” said Weber, who continues as a consultant for the Cardinals’ nutrition services department. “I cook really clean whole foods-based meals but make them taste like you’re splurging.”
A few flops with fish
It may sound like Weber’s path to success was smooth. But she’s the first to acknowledge bumps along the way.
An early client wanted her to do a dinner party. Weber hadn’t done one before so she researched and decided to wing it. Another wanted a Southwest-inspired plated dinner but Weber hadn’t developed her timing yet, so the fish wasn’t fully cooked by the time everything else was done.
And for another client, a beautiful piece of fish stuck to the grill and fell apart. But Weber made it all work in the end.
“There were a few fish catastrophes … some flops behind the scenes. But they are still my clients to this day,” Weber said. “It was definitely a learning process.”
Weber’s love for the craft and seeing others appreciate it are what fuels her.
“It’s so rewarding to see people enjoy what I’m creating,” Weber said. “The business side of it is not what excites me. It’s the food, always.”
What: Eat by Stacey Weber
Where: 4740 E. Shea Boulevard, Suite 109, Phoenix
Factoid: The global prepared meal delivery industry market was valued at $3.74 billion in 2020, according to BrandEssence Market Research.
Details: 602-328-9344, eatbystaceyweber.com