By Amy Wenk
Buckhead resident Bob Brinson has found a new niche in a mature market.
Eight months ago, the owner of personal chef company Gourmet Innovations (www.gourmetinnovationsinc.com) launched a service to deliver homemade meals to independent seniors. That offering has become a significant part of his business.
“Atlanta’s aging population is just growing and growing and growing,” said Brinson, a native of Charlotte, N.C., who spent his childhood summers in Garden Hills visiting his grandparents, fishing in the Duck Pond and playing catch at Chastain Park.
According to a 2007 report from the Atlanta Regional Commission, the older adult population grew 30.6 percent from 2000 to 2005. The surge in seniors more than doubled the total population growth of 13.7 percent for the same period in the 10-county metro area.
By 2030, it is estimated one in five residents will be over 60, and more than 1.2 million older adults will call metro Atlanta home.
Those seniors are staying put. The study reveals 64 percent of people over age 55 want to remain at home as long as possible. Most (84 percent) own the house in which they live.
Brinson is catering to folks who are looking to maintain independence and can afford some help. The nonprofit, volunteer-led Meals on Wheels delivers meals, but seniors must have a low income to qualify.
“So there’s not really a program out there for people that still have the need and still need food but can afford it,” said Brinson, who began cooking at age 10. After 15 years in corporate America, he left to pursue his culinary passion full time, opening Gourmet Innovations in 2006.
“I always wanted to get into the delivery side of things, because you can service more clients at one time.”
With his senior service he does just that.
Every two weeks Brinson delivers seven frozen meals to a client’s home. The semimonthly charge is $95, delivery included. Additional meals can be purchased.
“My focus is on seniors, but it’s also great for new moms,” said Brinson, the father of two young children, one of whom will attend Buckhead’s Atlanta International School in the fall. “I work with people that are recovering from strokes, surgeries or illnesses. Nutrition is so important to a speedy recovery and just general healthy living.”
He prepares the meals to order and includes a free dessert.
“The good thing about it is it’s all fresh,” said Brinson, who rents a kitchen on Irwin Street in Inman Park. “I shop the day that I cook, so there are no additives. There are no preservatives. I don’t use any processed food, so it’s naturally low in sodium. We offer diabetic-friendly meals if you need it.”
Clients select meals from weekly menus. Brinson does not repeat recipes for three months unless requested.
“It’s not like it’s meatloaf Monday or pork chop Tuesday,” he said. “You actually get a chance to pick what you want.”
The convenience, choice and quality of food are what enticed Decatur resident Leisa McDonald.
An employee with DK Lippy Construction, which makes homes accessible for seniors and the disabled, she became acquainted with Brinson at a networking event. When her mother-in-law, Alice McDonald, 86, of Sandy Springs, suffered a stroke and later fell and broke her arm, Leisa sought out his new service.
“This was something we were trying to do to make sure she was getting a hot, nutritious meal,” Leisa said.
Brinson’s meals, like Salisbury steak with gravy, parsley new potatoes and roasted carrots, hit the spot. “She’s really enjoyed these,” Leisa said. “It’s more like what … she would prepare for herself.”
Alice is not the only fan. Leisa and her husband, who both work full time, now order the meals for themselves.
“I’ve really become addicted to this,” said Leisa, a vegetarian who fancies Brinson’s baked couscous with spinach. “As things have gotten a little tighter in the economy … we are trying not to eat out as often as we were. This has worked out to be a really good option. The value is much better.”