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The success of our grand opening was, in part, thanks to Karen's quick action in getting us a write-up in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Her work and support made a difference.
— Rebecca Clinger, owner, The Crafter's Studio

"Thank you! You were awesome. Your recent Facebook seminar helped me formulate a vision for how to position my business within the social media space. And you left the crowd feeling good, which is a great skill to have."
Frank Horath
Registered Investment Advisor Representative, Clientfirst Financial

"Thank you, Karen, for the great telephone class on LinkedIn. I have joined at least five new groups, have expanded my connections, and re-established the LinkedIn toolbar in my Outlook, all thanks to your audio session. Good stuff I was able to put into practice immediately!"
Kennerly Clay
Executive Recruiter/Trainer and Business Development Director

"You have given me the basics and the confidence to charge forward and embrace Twitter and LinkedIn."
Sue Brooks, Santa Cruz, CA

"You are so informed and vibrant. Great energy! Thanks again for the Twitter lesson. Your handouts are a good way to get started, so no excuses for me."
Sloane Devoto
Realtor, Coldwell Banker

“Thank you again. Your social media talk was a real hit! Well done and much appreciated.”
Bill Tysseling
Executive Director, Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce

"There was a considerable amount of goodwill surrounding your presentation...You have a lot of positive energy and great ideas."
Bonnie Lipscomb
Director of Economic Development and Redevelopment for the City of Santa Cruz, CA

"Good presentation this morning at the Santa Cruz Chamber’s Caffeinated! It deserves at least a half-day workshop. I learned at least 20 new things this morning alone!"
Carol Skolnick
Clear Life Solutions

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Traci Tompkins
ABC Sedans & Limousines

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Tom Honig
Armanasco Public Relations

"Congratulations! You brought us back up to a 5-star rating again for our marketing meet-up. And there were zero no-shows. I would like to get you on the schedule again."
Maggie Barr
Maggie Barr & Associates

“Fabulous class! I never know how much I don't know until I start to learn what I don't know. Thanks again for the great class!”
Carmen Richardson Rutlen

“You have a clear, easy-going style of teaching that I found very effective. What a great talent you have!”
Carol Siegel
Employment Manager, Santa Cruz Seaside Company

“I attended Karen’s workshop on social media and would attend again whatever she presents. It was well worthwhile. She knows her subject and communicated it well.”
Donna Rankin Love

“Thanks for the great class. I really got a lot out of it, and feel others did too. In fact, I went onto LinkedIn and began to set up my account!”
Paula Mahoney
Writer and Producer

“Your class last Saturday was amazingly helpful! In addition to having a lovely persona, you have so much useful information to impart. I am full of ideas as to how to proceed regarding how the get the word out about my present novel when the time comes.
Janice Wittenberg

“Being a complete novice about the business of social media, I was anxious to take her class recently at Capitola Book Cafe. Passion to share what she knows would describe her; I highly recommend her classes!”
Jane Parks-McKay
Writer and Voice-Over Actor

“Just wanted to say thanks again for a very informative presentation this morning. It was very helpful, and I thought you did a great job of giving us a general overview of Twitter in a short period of time.”
Sonia Potts

“With so much to cover I appreciated how organized you were and how you stayed on track. Taking the approach of showing how the mechanical features of Twitter could be used for positioning and building our business was particularly helpful.”
Charlie Zimmerman
Publisher, The Wedding Companion

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Recipe for success: Mother, daughter specialize in meal preparation

March 29, 2004

Santa Cruz Sentinel


SANTA CRUZ—Jody Lombardo knows the challenge of balancing family and career, especially when it comes to cooking dinner after a long day at work.

She was once a single mother struggling to meet the demands of her job and to provide her young son with nutritious meals on a limited budget.

At 37, she still juggles a demanding schedule: She works full time at Raytek as a materials planner, and last June, she and her mother, Judy Johnson, launched their business, Fresh Prep Kitchens. The idea: to help busy clients prepare healthy dinners quickly, economically and in bulk.

Fresh Prep Kitchens prepares fresh food in the commercial kitchen space she rents on Fern Street in the Harvey West Industrial Park.

With 14 years at Raytek to her credit, Lombardo wanted to feed her passion for the food industry. The Southern California native previously worked as a caterer and had owned a natural foods business. Later, she considered becoming a personal chef or baking meals for others to take home. Instead, she enlisted the help of her mom, and together they refined a concept, unique to the area and the West Coast, according to Lombardo's market research.

At Fresh Prep Kitchens, customers (solo or in groups) arrive by appointment and are handed aprons and dish towels as they are guided to the kitchen. There, they find that all the food is prepped and organized at stations for them. They spend an hour or two assembling either six or 12 different menu items that they have selected prior to arrival. (Each menu item is a serving size for four people). The menus, (which recently included portabello mushroom fajitas, twice-baked potatoes, roast chicken and vegetable paella,) are available online, change monthly and reflect a mix of vegetarian, fish, poultry and beef, and one dessert.

High-quality food is the backbone of the business, explained Lombardo, who relies on local suppliers Watsonville Coast Produce, Carmel Meats and Ledyard for canned goods.

The other key ingredient is a broad spectrum of recipes.

"We experiment with family recipes," said Lombardo, who fell in love with cooking at age 7 while she helped her Italian grandmother. "Grandma Nonnie's meatloaf and the minestrone soup are favorites at Fresh Prep Kitchens."

During the session, clients follow the recipes, assemble the meal from raw ingredients, put them in freezer-friendly bags and boxes, then stash them in their own cooler. The entrees are frozen at home until cooked for consumption. At the end of the Fresh Prep session, there is no cleanup for the customer.

"We have couples come in to cook together, seniors, singles," said Lombardo.

They use the meals to feed families, for parties or potlucks.

"It served the exact purpose I came for," said June Smith of Capitola, a recent retiree who owned Roudon Smith Winery. "I don't like to take the time to shop, prep and clean up. In my retirement, I thought I might take cooking lessons, but when I saw this, I thought I could avoid excess work and have well-balanced meals."

Fresh Prep Kitchens is not a cooking school. Clients are sent home with cooking instructions but not with the recipes.

"We want them to come back," laughed Lombardo, noting a high number of repeat customers. While she expects her business to turn a profit by buying food wholesale, she tries to keep customer costs down. The price is based on either a 24- or 48-serving plan ($110-$145). The cost of food, which is noted on the Web site, is additional.

Future plans for Fresh Prep Kitchens include offering an all-organic menu and moving to a larger space that is all their own.

Lombardo said partnering with her mom has been rewarding. Johnson manages the legal, accounting and financial elements, while Lombardo handles clients, marketing and food.

The future recipe for the mother-daughter duo involves expansion into Aptos, San Jose and perhaps beyond.

"Our goal was to get people to eat healthy food and get them back to the table to eat together," said Johnson.

Fresh Prep Kitchens

WHAT: Professional kitchen space, menu, food and assistance provided to Assemble meals to be cooked at home.

Owners: Jody Lombardo, Judy Johnson, founding partners.

Wher: 216-B Fern St., Santa Cruz.

Details: By reservation only.

Cost: Varies according to meal plan and food selection.

Information: 429-1390, www.freshprepkitchens.com

How it works

1. Review the menu online to determine which items to prepare. Menus change monthly.

2. Select a meal plan.

3. Make a reservation online or by phone.

4. At the session, all food, measuring utensils, recipes, assistance and cleanup are provided.

5. Bring your own cooler. You will pack meals in the provided freezer-friendly containers and store them in your own cooler during the session. Clients are supplied cooking instructions.

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