The concept started off simply enough: Jim Chapman and his wife
were looking for a quick meal option that didn’t mean resorting to
the McDonald’s drive-through, but the idea soon became much
Chapman, a resident of Hollister, developed a passionate belief
people should be able to feed their family good food, even in
these busy times,
so he did the one thing that felt right.
The concept started off simply enough: Jim Chapman and his wife were looking for a quick meal option that didn’t mean resorting to the McDonald’s drive-through, but the idea soon became much larger.
Chapman, a resident of Hollister, developed a passionate belief that “people should be able to feed their family good food, even in these busy times,” so he did the one thing that felt right.
He and his wife opened a gourmet pick-up service called The Running Rooster that allows those who are too busy or who don’t feel like cooking to pick up slow-cooked dinners, one entree and side dish at a time.
Comfort foods, which evoke the nostalgia of times gone by – of long, slow summer afternoons spent in the kitchen and leisurely family meals at night – are enjoying a renaissance as families in search of quality time seek options that are a little more savory than pizza straight from the box.
The food doesn’t have to be fancy, just family-friendly fare that adults and kids alike can enjoy, but today’s comfort foods are going further.
They’re adding a dash of the gourmet with special touches like fresh, local and organic ingredients that give foods a hand-crafted feel, just like grandma used to make.
“In some cases, comfort food is seen as something you can cook any way with any level of quality as long as it is heavy and filling,” said Majid Bahriny, owner of Mama Mia’s in Gilroy and Morgan Hill, who cooks up Mediterranean comfort foods like lasagna and spaghetti. “It’s not the case. The freshness and quality of the product is important, but prepping it the right way definitely makes a big difference, too.”
On any given night, customers at The Running Rooster in Hollister might find an array of comfort foods, from pot roast, lasagna and fajitas to carnitas, barbecue and roast chicken, gracing the menu.
“You won’t find a seared ahi tuna steak served with a mango avocado chutney here,” said Chapman. “Unlike something clever that a particular chef may have invented, most traditional comfort dishes have evolved through many, many generations of chefs and cooks. The reason they’re so popular is they’ve stood the test of time.”
Another reason for comfort food’s popularity stems from the time and care that are put into each dish’s preparation, said Dorothy McNett, owner of the Hollister business Dorothy McNett’s Place.
“It’s about using real ingredients rather than something you can get prefab at the store, like making a nice cheese sauce yourself instead of making macaroni and cheese from the box,” she said.
McNett advises parents to make the most of dinner as quality time, serving most meals, no matter how simple, with real style.
Instead of plastic and disposable pieces, she recommends cloth placemats, real plates, real glasses and real flatware.
“Use real bowls for serving and maybe light a candle on the table,” said McNett. “It encourages people to sit together and talk rather than just throwing the food down, eating it and running off to the next thing. I think that’s the way we’re going to have to go to help save some of the stuff that’s happening with families and with kids.”
Restaurants and specialty stores are elevating these simple dishes to gourmet experiences by bringing added quality to items like roast chicken or lasagna.
Chapman roasts his chickens on a custom-made oak-burning rotisserie and smokes his barbecued meats using hickory wood.
At Mama Mia’s, Bahriny makes sure his pastas and lasagnas stay in top shape using only extra virgin olive oil combined with ultra-fresh herbs and spices.
And time is a key element of comfort food, McNett said.
“Comfort food doesn’t have to be complex, but presentation goes a long way,” she said. “And I think eating it as a family instills a respect for food and for eating that you’re not going to find in fast food.”
To try a quality at-home meal without cooking, give The Running Rooster a call at (831) 638-9940 or drop into the shop, located in the same building as Dorothy McNett’s Place at 800 San Benito Street in Hollister.
You may contact Mama Mia’s in Morgan Hill at (408) 776-8111 or dial (408) 847-8808 for the Gilroy location.