It's been a whirlwind April for River Forest chef Angie Montroy, who won top honors at the first annual Healthy Chef Challenge cooking competition and opened her own storefront business in the Hemingway District.
Montroy is the owner and head chef of Angie's Pantry, which opened its doors for business at 809 South Boulevard on April 30. Just three weeks prior, she was competing against some of Oak Park's top chefs in the Oak Park Food Pantry's Healthy Chef Challenge. The fundraising event was held at the Nineteenth Century Club's Forest Avenue location.
Montroy had the home-field advantage at the competition; she spent about five years using the Nineteenth Century Club's shared kitchen to build her catering and ready-to-eat meals business.
Angie's Pantry offers a variety of entrees, salads, desserts and a la carte items on a weekly basis. The dishes, which she says have no preservatives, trans fats or artificial ingredients, just need to be heated.
Entrees are ever-changing, but a sample menu features braised beef/turkey meatballs in tomato wine sauce, chicken vesuvio with wine and garlic and spiced grilled pork tenderloin, among others.
"They're healthy meals that all my clients have to do is warm it up and serve, so there's no prep involved," she said. "Basically, pour yourself a glass of wine, put it in the oven and wait for it to warm up and be with your family."
Clients of the ready-to-eat meals get an email every Wednesday with the menu for the week; they have until Friday to make their selections. The following Tuesday they can pick them up at the store or have them delivered for a small fee.
Angie said she started working as a personal chef about 20 years ago and for the last five years has been building her business at the Nineteenth Century Club kitchen. She opened the South Boulevard location because, "I wanted something with street presence," she said.
"When I ran my business out of (the Nineteenth Century Club), it was all word of mouth," she said. "I had a lot of business but when people would hear about it, they would say, 'Oh, I've never heard of that.'"
She said Angie's Pantry also does catering, offering meals that are "very personalized to the client."
Montroy offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, touting her gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. "If you couldn't have gluten and you couldn't really have a chocolate chip cookie, that would be a bummer, wouldn't it?" she said.
With the new storefront operation, Montroy said she's unable to make the deliveries herself, noting that she misses interfacing with her clients. "Today I'm going to deliver a couple because I miss my people," she said.
Montroy has been on a role lately, winning the Healthy Chef Challenge at the Nineteenth Century Club on April 7, where she competed against chefs from Maya Del Sol and Rustico.
The chefs were given a variety of ingredients – day-old bread, black beans, canned plums and ground turkey – to use for their culinary creations, but one final ingredient – a can of SpaghettiOs – was not revealed until just before the contest began.
Montroy's winning dish was an open-faced sandwich with a crostini bottom topped with a roasted garlic and black bean mash, the plums, a turkey patty, pureed SpaghettiOs, and blanched collard greens. To top it off, Montroy added an over-easy fried egg.
"I was so nervous until we started cooking," she said, adding, "OK. I'm finally here, and I don't have to think about it anymore, I just have to do it."
Montroy invited Oak Parkers and others in the area to stop in and check out the new shop and meet the staff. She said she's still working on her website, which will be at www.angiespantry.com. Until then, the business can be reached at 708-434-5742.
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