By Judith Sims
Tara Thompson is a supertaster.
She can tell if the ice cream was stored next to garlic bread in the freezer case. She can taste and identify additives and preservatives in bread. She knows if the nuts you’re serving are rancid and which stage of rancidity they’re in.
And that’s why, she says, the food she offers in her new business venture, Dinnerbella, is fresh and flavorful.
Dinnerbella is a meal service company that Thompson, of St. Anthony Park, is launching this spring.
“The food is going to be family friendly and easy to do, but a little bit beyond the basics,” she says. “It’s not going to be tuna hot dish, it’s going to be Butter Chicken with Basmati rice and a little spice but not too much heat, or Hamburger Sliders with buns baked that day at the New French Bakery. Bread has to taste right. It’ll be well-liked flavors in classic dishes from various regional and ethnic cuisines.”
Thompson got the idea for Dinnerbella while working full time as a teacher.
“I would come home from a long day just frantic to have a homemade meal with my family, with everyone eating well,” she said. “That was important to me. I thought, ‘If somebody would just do all the planning and put the ingredients together, I could come home and put it together.’ I love cooking.”
She kept hearing from parents at the schools her three children attend that they, too, wanted an easy option for a home-cooked meal and were tired of struggling with the perennial “What’s for dinner?” So Thompson has been experimenting with a meal plan of three dinners a week, delivered in a cooler, with ingredients measured and labeled.
She’s fussy about food and its affordability, which means she’ll drive to a food store in Bloomington that’s having a sale on organic chicken breasts.
Thompson’s supertaster talents got her work as a flavor consultant with General Mills where, in addition to testing products for flavor, texture and aroma, she specialized in food storage and baked goods. A personal interest in sustainability led her to recyclable packaging. Thompson’s other interests—notably an obsession with TV cooking shows and food magazines—yielded great timesaving techniques that simplify cooking. And so Dinnerbella was launched.
But not everyone loves to cook. So Thompson is experimenting with offering the ultimate convenience: food packaged in a liner that can be put in a crockpot.
Thompson has been marketing her business on Facebook and through word of mouth. As her business model evolves, she is brainstorming ways to accommodate customer requests for gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian options.
Judith Sims is a writer and educational media producer who lives in St. Anthony Park.