When Tessa Dempre and her husband were first married, she told her husband that she was going to make some chocolate chip cookies. Puzzled, he informed her that they did not have any. “He never knew you could make cookies from scratch,” Dempre explained, “I never ate them - cookies - from the package. That’s just how we grew up.”
But, who has time to bake cookies from scratch? Much less an entire home cooked meal?
Tessa Dempre has the answer… just Leave Dinner to June, a weekly meal catering service that delivers fresh, home-cooked meals to your front door. Inspired by the iconic Leave it to Beaver housewife June Cleaver, Dempre created a unique, dinnertime solution for busy families.
“We want you to feel like you can come home at the end of the day and have that classic family moment even if everything else has gone wrong,” Dempre said.
Just three years ago, while working full-time for an appraiser and pursing her business degree, Dempre found quality family time at dinner to be elusive, as many do.
“Unless I prepped something in the morning or had something in the crock pot, we were trying to drag tired kids into restaurants, and it just wasn’t working.”
When Dempre and her husband learned she was expecting their fourth child in January 2014, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom with high hopes of daily home cooked meals.
“Even then, if I didn’t have dinner ready before the kids got off the bus, it wasn’t happening because, by then, we were running everywhere,” she explained.
She noticed a similar conversation among her fellow parents at ballgames and extra-curricular activities: everyone is so busy and making a home cooked meal just isn’t feasible on most nights.
Asian Chicken Meatballs with Fried Rice, wine not included
Though some find restaurants and takeout are perfectly acceptable, Dempre wanted to recreate the bonding experience of family dinners that she had throughout her childhood.
“My parents always cooked everything from scratch, and there’s kind of like a family 'gelling.' Whoever was home ate at the table together, and I think that’s important. A lot of good family conversations go on like that. A lot of learning about each other.”
Her solution was Leave Dinner to June.
“We want everybody to feel that 50s housewife home model, even though our lives have very much changed. We want to deliver a real service to our customers where they can have something of value for their family at the end of the day.”
Leave Dinner to June operates out of a commercial kitchen on Dempre’s property in Central, where she and her three cooks accept weekly orders through Sunday night. They currently serve about 30 – 40 households per week in the Central and Baton Rouge area, which amounts to 800 some odd servings of dinners and sides, and long hours cooking on Monday and Tuesday.
Dempre and her staff do accommodate dietary requests, such as gluten intolerance, vegetarian, etc.
To balance family time, Dempre knew that kitchen work needed to be completed between Monday and Tuesday. In the way things usually go on deadlines, everything that could go wrong always seemed to happen on a Tuesday.
“We would joke that, of course, if somebody’s kid is going to get sick, it’s going to happen on a Tuesday. Or, if my kid forgets something that needs to be brought to school, it’s going to happen on a Tuesday…. But when it started to turn around and we felt like we were on top of things, we were like, ‘oh, you accomplished that? On a Tuesday?’”
Thus, #OnaTuesday became one of their signature marketing tactics, a nod to the Drake tune here. – Leave Dinner to June values do not reflect or endorse other lyrics, messages, or images from this song. -
Wednesday is delivery day. Leave Dinner to June drops off orders at each house and can provide an ice chest, at some additional cost, for those unable to be home at the drop-off time.
Their ever-changing menu includes family favorites, Pinterest suggestions and some original recipes. While there is no real “science” to the menu, Dempre said they usually include two chicken, two beef, and one pork recipe.
“We like to have a couple of rib stick and homecooking meals, and we have a couple clean offerings for people who want to manage their weight… Right now, it’s Lent, so we offer like a tomato basil or broccoli cheese – soup – for Fridays.”
With the growing success of Leave Dinner to June and recipe requests, Dempre has pondered writing a cookbook.
“I don’t think that we’ve been a success because nobody can do it. It’s homecooking. A lot of things your grandmother probably makes the same way. We really cook what you would cook for your family if you had time.”
Though her business is still relatively young, Dempre hopes to expand in the coming years.
“Ultimately, we would like to go into two delivery days,” she said, explaining that it’s important for customers to have a more “last minute” option for weekend meal planning.
“We would also love to have a storefront where you didn’t order, but you’re driving home and you realize you don’t have anything at home. You could just drive thru and grab something that’s cooked and ready. It would still be refrigerated like our meals are when we deliver.”
While this sort of ‘catering – To – Go’ may be in the future, Dempre does not foresee opening a restaurant.