Locally Made: Jordan Stejskal Brings the Garden to Your Kitchen
Jordan Stejskal used to struggle with a multiple personality problem.
For years, the Phoenix native worked for a Scottsdale architecture firm where she was a self-described office Super Girl in pencil skirts and heels. When she wasn't in the office, Jordan turned into the hippie chef, a farmer's market groupie who enjoyed whipping up homemade meals.
Last year, Jordan found a way to merge the two parts herself with a new business called The Gardeners Kitchen.
When Jordan was eighteen, her father died of cancer, leaving her a small sum of money. At the time, Jordan described herself as "a little wild." Instead of spending the cash on a new car or a crazy vacation, she held on it to it.
"I knew that my father wouldn't approve of my lifestyle," she explained, "so I didn't spend any of it."
Jordan wanted to use the inheritance for something that would make her father proud. Just after her 29th birthday, while wandering the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market, she found the inspiration she was looking for. Jordan had always loved the market and realized that she wanted to be a part of it.
"I felt like the market people were my kind of people. I asked myself, how I could be a part of this place," she says. She began scanning the market aisles to figure out what might be missing when it finally occurred to her that she couldn't use most of her market finds at home longer than a week. In other words, fresh only went so far.
As a working professional she knew that it was often hard to find the time to cook real meals, so she came up with the idea to produce ready made dishes with all of the wonderful local ingredients from the market. She would package them and freeze them so that the home cooked flavors could be enjoyed any time. She left her office job and one year later, she found herself with a booth at the market and four menu items.
When Jordan worked at the architecture firm, she put in many hours, but didn't feel inspired by her contributions. These days, Jordan puts in a twelve hour day in her industrial kitchen creating the meals from her own recipes, but she says she doesn't even notice the clock. And that's a good thing, because it takes an entire day just to make the marinara sauce she layers on her stuffed shells.
Jordan says that her customers are people who appreciate slow cooked homemade food and would make it themselves, if they had time to. She offers Stuffed Shells, Garden Chili, Stuffed Green Chilies, and Veggie Lasagna Rolls, all made from local ingredients before they are vacuum sealed and frozen in oven ready packs.
The meals are packaged for two, but we tried the Stuffed Shells and were able to feed a family of two adults and two small children with a side salad. This year Jordan plans to add single portions and child-sized portions to her menu. She is also working on an appetizer assortment perfectly portioned for four people and hopes to add desserts.
Jordon says that that best part of running her own small business is the customer interaction. She enjoys meeting people and is thrilled to have regulars who stop by with suggestions. Whether hovering over a steaming pot of sauce or hauling a freezer from her trailer, Jordan is working harder than ever, but she says that she the happiest she has ever been.