STACEY SEYBOLD HILLER, DREAM DINNERS OWNER
It’s safe to say that Stacey Seybold Hiller was a fan of meal prepping before it was popular.
Hiller is the owner of Dream Dinners in Indianapolis, a franchised meal delivery service that brings Hoosier families healthy, fresh to frozen meals. After first seeing Dream Dinners advertised on TV while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, she took a chance and opened her own location in August 2005.
“The two women that started Dream Dinners were doing what was called ‘freezer cooking’ as they started to do the business, which I was doing at the time with a friend every month,” Hiller says. “We would get together and cook for two days, make a terrible mess. But then we could feed our big families for almost nothing.”
Dream Dinners is unlike traditional meal delivery services because everything is handmade and prepared in-house by Hiller and her staff. The ingredients are cleaned, chopped, and prepped so there is minimal work for the customer to do. From there, patrons can pick-up their meals curbside at the storefront or someone from Dream Dinners can hand-deliver orders, too.
“I came from a family of people who enjoyed cooking and was passionate about feeding others,” Hiller says. “We looked into Dream Dinners at the time and it just seemed like a great fit and so here I am still today.”
In addition to owning Dream Dinners, Hiller is also a speech pathologist at her own private practice, Indy Pediatric Educational Resources, which she opened in 2006.
We chatted with Hiller about dealing with picky eaters, what qualities she looks for in a restaurant, and how to make family dinners fun, because some of us have had a lot of family time while quarantining this past year.
How did speech therapy lead you into the food world?
Part of my speech therapy practice has always been a feeding component. I remember being very shocked as I grew into adulthood, learning that families didn’t all just sit down together for meals. That family mealtime is so incredibly important for so many things as far as child development, mental health, and physical health. It just sort of became an integral part of my speech therapy practice for all those reasons.
How can people make family meals fun, especially ones who have been quarantined together for months on end?
In my family, we did a couple things. I went out and got this bright blue plate at Target, years and years and years ago. I shuffled it around between all of the family members and if you had the blue plate, in our family, you had to say a blessing. Then everybody had to go around and say one thing they appreciated about you. And there would be times when my kids could just say something like, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t sneeze on me today.” But it still got the ball rolling. And then it allowed the kids to start to learn to be thankful. It allowed them to be able to accept a compliment, which is a hard skill for many people.
Do you have any advice for people with picky eaters?
About 99% of picky eaters are made, not born. And what I don’t think a lot of people realize or know about our bodies is that we have to see food, smell it, and be around it multiple times to allow our body to sort of get ready to accept it. Having kids nearby when you’re cooking food and being able to smell and see the ingredients, that’s important as opposed to this mysterious thing being set in front of them and them having no idea how it got there.
Your favorite local restaurant to dine at?
I miss dining out! I love District Tap. For me, the restaurant is as much about the food as it is about the environment. And if the environment doesn’t feel comfortable or warm or whatever, then to me it’s just not as great a place.
If you could only make one food for the rest of your life, what would you make?
If it was being made for me, I would eat sushi. If it was something I was making, I think I would have to go with the blanket answer of salad because you know, you can put any protein or any vegetable on it. I feel like the salad answer would allow me some flexibility.
What’s one of your best kept cooking secrets?
There’s a chicken and noodles that I make, and I think the reason people love it so much is because there’s just so much time taken. It’s not complicated. It’s not hard at all. But when I make it, it takes an entire day. When you take time to make something for people, I think people can almost taste it. You know, like you hear things about “you can taste the love.”
How are you able to balance two careers?
First and foremost, I have an absolutely amazing staff at Dream Dinners. Hiring correctly, you learn along the way and you make some mistakes and you learn from them. We have so many amazing pieces of technology now that can help us stay on track and I use all of them. I just use my technology efficiently.
Why are you so passionate about food?
Food is universal. And everybody probably has at least one food memory around their family. There’s so much data out there about the decrease in mental illnesses and improving mental health for people of all ages when they have supportive meals. In the speech therapy world, one of the worst things for a parent is when they feel like they can’t adequately nourish their child for whatever reason. And so, when I come in and that situation is always highly stressful, and the minute that a family can start to have success feeding their child, it is an unbelievable privilege to be involved in that.
What qualities do you look for when you’re scouting out a new restaurant?
The atmosphere is almost as important to me as the food (almost). I want to feel comfortable, that the staff is there because they want to be there, and that the food is unique and delicious. However, having had to go through ServSafe training, I also assess the cleanliness within a minute of walking in the door!
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.