Food Service & Agriculture and Small Business & Startups

‘Kitchen takeover’ business serves up fun

OGO Initiative encourages stress reduction, nutrition and entertaining interaction.

April 22, 2016
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OGO Initiative
OGO Initiative makes use of fresh ingredients when preparing meals in the home, then passes that nutrition knowledge along to clients. Courtesy OGO Initiative

Some of Ben Price’s favorite cooking moments are when he can change someone’s mind about a food they used to dislike. One time a woman told him, “I hate Brussels sprouts and these are delicious.”

“Those are the moments I love,” he said. “My favorite thing to cook for people is vegetables. What makes me excited is when I can change people’s perceptions about foods that had negative stereotypes around them. Teaching people how to cook whole foods in a healthy way is a blast.”

Price is looking to change perceptions about food all over Grand Rapids with his new business, OGO Initiative.

OGO, which stands for “organization, growth and opportunity,” is all about “home cooking, culinary education and nutrition encouragement with the intent of lowering stress and adding value to dinner time to create more meaningful moments around the table,” Price said.

Price is no stranger to the culinary industry. He’s served as a restaurant manager for both Denny’s and downtown Grand Rapids’ Sundance Grill and Bar where he “really learned how to cook,” as well as food service manager for The Salvation Army.

Although he said he’s been dabbling with his cooking business for about two years, Price officially launched OGO out of his home in January. He’s the sole person on the job, but occasionally he contracts with friends who are also in the industry.

“We don’t call it catering because I don’t bring prepared food — I cook in their homes. It’s more like a private chef, and we do that on purpose because it allows me to work more freely than if I were a caterer, per se,” he said.

“I call it co-hosting, where I basically take care of all the food, and it just frees you up to host.”

OGO offers a lot of culinary options for its clients, Price said. Its Culinary Experience Series, for instance, provides custom sessions for individuals and couples that teach new skill sets focused on meal planning and cooking for families: nutritional cooking; cooking for groups; expansions; and foundation. The series covers appetizers, desserts, holiday parties, wine or cocktail parties and grilling.

OGO also has Teach and Taste events, one-time group sessions for up to 12 people so everyone can learn together. He said these events focus on more than just cooking and include geography and cultural discussions associated with the meal.

He says everything can be customized for the budgets, goals and personalities of clients.

“(I’m) doing a wine dinner for a mom’s 60th birthday party, giving them a tour through 10 or 11 wines. (We’ll) have fun, do education and have a party to celebrate this woman’s life,” he said. “It involves more education than just a straight dinner.”

Price currently does about six to eight cooking events a month, but his goal is to get to about 20 hours per week spent in people’s homes.

There are currently four types of clients to whom he is marketing. The first is people who need to cook for themselves and are nutrition and skill focused. The second group is people who need to cook for others, like working or young parents, and who need help with reducing their stress. The third group is hobbyists, who tend to be older, sometimes retired, folks or younger couples who don’t have kids yet, he said. And the fourth group is people who want to do this for entertainment purposes.

“So much of food in our industry is about impressing people,” he said. “We wanted something people could hold on to that could make a difference for them.”

Price said his business model of bringing culinary skills into the home is “ahead of the curve.” He called it a natural progression of exposure to things like Food Network and higher culinary experiences in everyday life. Although it’s enjoyable escapism to dine like kings for a night, he wants people to be able to enjoy cooking all the time.

“We went through a season in the 1980s and 1990s where hosting in someone’s home was a lost art. … The success of ‘Mad Men’ was a precursor to that — the popularity of cocktail parties,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is, there’s still a big gap educationally between what we see on TV and what we can actually execute in our kitchens. Now we have the groceries for it, but most of us, we’re not going to go to school to learn this.”

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