Local mom caters home-cooked meals in Darien

DARIEN — Megan Ruppenstein’s catering service, Four Forks, is in the ideal location across from the train station in downtown Darien. But it had humble beginnings. Four Forks started in Ruppenstein’s kitchen and garage, where customers retrieved orders from her fridge and left money in an envelope. What started as friends asking her to cook for them evolved into a full catering business for this mother of four.

Ruppenstein was known for the dishes she brought to parties, despite having never taken a cooking class. So after being asked to cook for friends, it seemed natural she try to turn that into a business after her youngest son started preschool.

“One day it was like, “I’m just going to do this. I’m just going to send it out and see what happens,” Ruppenstein said. “And it just never stopped. I never had a week where no one ordered, so it just literally started and never stopped.”

In February, Ruppenstein moved her business to a storefront. She takes orders for family dinners for Tuesday and Wednesday nights and focuses on event catering Thursday through Sunday. Customers get the week’s catering menu in an email on Sundays. The menu includes what meals are available for pickup that week from a fridge in the front room, a service Ruppenstein began on Tuesday.

“We sent out an email what was in the fridge and within an hour it was all sold out,” she said. “It was really exciting for a first day.”

Four Forks started with 20 people on its email list, but now has 400, thanks to word spreading. Ruppenstein said it’s the homemade aspect that draws people in.

“There’s definitely a lack of home-cooked meals in this town,” she said, citing how busy Darien moms can get. “The reason I’ve had so much success is because it’s like they’re making the food. We have such a healthy flair.

“It’s a combination of family-friendly meals that have a focus on being healthy and you know are al- natural ingredients,” her husband and business partner, Chris, added. “The ingredients are all sourced from organic farms. And you know what you’re eating.”

Ruppenstein gets recipes from cookbooks and her mother. She also looks online for inspiration and tests out new meals on her sons.

“If you look at my cookbooks, they are shredded,” she said. “I love cookbooks. They’re my favorite read. One of the reasons why I have had luck with the cooking is because I know how to read a recipe and whether it’ll be good or not. I can tell instantly.”

Ruppenstein’s former job planning the events for the NFL is another key to her success.

“I joke (and) call it game day because at the NFL, that’s what we called it,” she said of catering events. “Everything was game day then, and I can handle that rush and love that rush. I think a lot of people panic, but that’s the part that I really enjoy too.”

The rush has been consistent since Four Forks opened, and business is expanding. Ruppenstein has two employees to help prepare meals. Four Forks became a member of the Darien Chamber of Commerce this month. Despite the growth, Ruppenstein is sticking to the mission she had when she started: the promise of home-cooked meals.

“In the beginning, we tried to use everyone’s own platters, because it was home-cooked food,” she said. “You didn’t make it, but I did. The only thing missing is the smell in your house. I was really obsessed with that. I think we’ve definitely kept that.”

For information on Four Forks, go to fourforks.net.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata