Lynn entrepreneur grows catering service


July 30, 2013
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

A little over a year ago chef Kristen Thibeault started a meal delivery service with a handful of customers. Today she is up to 30 clients and now also offers catering. But one thing her business does not deal in is meat. “It’s a vegan meal delivery service and gourmet catering,” said Thibeault from her home-away-from-home, Kombu Kitchen located in the J.B. Blood Building on Wheeler Street.

Thibeault provides full meal preparation, three meals a day, seven days a week for between 25 and 50 clients. Her customers include high-end clients who don’t have the time or proclivity to cook but still want to eat healthy, and families with specific health needs.
Her cooking career path wasn’t necessarily intentional but she said she believes food seems to heal people both spiritually and physically — something she said is true for herself.

An off-again on-again vegetarian, Thibeault said she committed to veganism and a cooking career after a doctor’s diagnosis rocked her world.
“I had a dual cancer diagnosis,” she said. “Uterine and breast cancer. I was Stage 3.”

Kristen Thibeault, the owner of Kombu Kitchen in Lynn, holds a plate of wheatberry poblano kale salad and a glass of green goddess juice.
Kristen Thibeault, the owner of Kombu Kitchen in Lynn, holds a plate of wheatberry poblano kale salad and a glass of green goddess juice.

She said that after undergoing a radical mastectomy and hysterectomy she knew she had to change her life. If she could control anything, she said, it was the food she ate. Along with shedding weight, Thibeault also shed her 18-year career in marketing in favor of following her heart into cooking. “Friends and family thought I was insane,” she said. “But they knew I loved to cook. It was something I wanted to do before college.”

In the mid-1980s, however, cooking was still very much a man’s world and Thibeault felt it wasn’t an option. A winding path that included sharing a macrobiotic meal with Richard Gere, a stint in the Brazilian rainforest, training in nutrition, studying in Austria and graduating first in her class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris led her to opening Kombu Kitchen.
That path also included winning the prestigious S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition this year, a first for a vegan chef.

Now Thibeault’s days start between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and on delivery days (Thursdays), it can be as early as 2 a.m. Her delivery map ranges from Foxborough to Newburyport and out to Harvard, she said.

Wednesday, Thibeault was in the kitchen at 4 a.m. and by 12:30 had turned out 200 servings of wheatberry poblano salad, ginger sticky brown rice, a vibrant grass-colored green goddess soup, cucumber mint lemonade, strawberry and rhubarb tortes, espresso mocha chai pudding along with muffins and a batch of bolognese that is typically meat-based but this one had a substitute.

She has two prep cooks and two additional cooks but she oversees a fourth-floor kitchen that she is rapidly outgrowing.
“We’re thinking of expanding into the space,” she said, indicating an adjoining room. The need for expansion goes against the popular conception that vegan food equals boring food. “Vegan has a really bad reputation of not tasting very good and not being flavorful,” she said. “I’m really diligent about that. Flavor is really important to me.” It’s that reputation that has kept vegan restaurants from flourishing, she said, but that’s another challenge she hopes to take on.

Thibeault said she is 200 recipes into writing a cookbook, is shopping a pilot around for what would be the first vegan cooking show and eventually hopes to open a restaurant.

In that mix is also two small children, a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old, and a husband, who she swears she makes time for. And five years later, Thibeault is cancer-free. It is a lot to keep a handle on but Thibeault said she is a big believer in positive intentions and providing people with “really healthy food that’s accessible.”

Visit Thibeault’s website at

Chris Stevens can be reached at

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