Chef Ryan Brown and his Brooklyn-based Choice Cooking company provide both catering and personal chef services. For the personal chef service, Brown works with clients to develop custom-designed menus and each meal includes soup/salad, entree and dessert. We tried some of his offerings, which come pre-cooked in eco-friendly packaging that can be heated up in either the oven or microwave, and found them healthy, hearty and delicious—with plenty for leftovers, too. Brown recently told us where the best place to get groceries in New York is, what the personal chef business has been like during these financial times, and a story about catering for a famous client who brought a hooker to dinner.

When and why did you start Choice Cooking? I started Choice Cooking in 1999, after having worked in restaurants (Picholine, Jean Georges being the two most notable). I had a serious case of restaurant burnout, and realized that while it was an excellent education in cooking, it wasn't what I wanted to do long term with my life. I've always had an interest in health and nutrition, and starting a personal chef service seemed like a natural way of combining those interests.

Is it a tough time, with the economy, to be a personal chef? We also do full service catering, and while our catering business has declined quite a lot during the recession, our personal chef services have never done better. I think this is due to a shift in people's values--they are more inclined to spend money on something that is healthy, sustaining, allows them more time with their family, as opposed to going out to eat and dropping a lot of money on an extravagant dinner.

You custom design menus for each customer, what is the most common specification (low fat, low carb, vegetarian,etc)? It really varies and over the years there have been trends which have, thankfully, come and gone. The was a super low fat phase in the 90's (lots of cooking spray and non-stick pans). then super low carb Atikins kind of thing (tons of fat and protein) but in the last few years I feel like people have a better sense of what healthy's more about good carbs versus bad carbs, good fats versus bad fats, and smaller amounts of these things as opposed to none at all. Beyond that, everyone has that vegetable they hate, or food allergies or whatever. We are seeing a lot more people with wheat intolerances, for some reason.

Is there a way to get the nutritional info for each meal? We do not work from specific recipes, so we cannot give specific calorie counts or nutritional information for each meal.

What is your favorite meal to make? Eat? That's a tough question because there are so many things I like to cook and eat. I am very interested in locavore cooking, working with local farms, using high quality ingredients, working with what's in season. I believe that this will become more and more common as more people understand the benefits of eating locally and's something you can do for the environment which is not any sort of a sacrifice. It is a little more expensive, but organic, local, seasonal food actually tastes BETTER than the alternative. Having said that, I like junk food as much as anybody else. (see my answer to the last question)

Do you have a favorite place to go grocery shopping in New York? I love the farmer's market at Union Square, especially in July and August. It's so fun to see first whatever of the season (asparagus in the spring, berries in the summer, etc.). Chelsea Market is great for people watching.

What's a good, quick meal someone can easily make in their tiny New York apartment? A good condiment can make all the difference. A really great chutney, or interesting mustard is all you need. You can find all sorts of interesting things in this realm at the farmer's market or at a gourmet grocery store like Dean and Deluca. Steam a fish fillet in some wine (drink the rest of the bottle with dinner), saute up some sort of green vegetable, buy a really good loaf of bread and buy a good condiment, and you're all set.

Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. We catered a party where the guest of honor was a very well known singer and television personality who had just published his autobiography. He showed up an hour and 1/2 late, brought along a hooker as his date, ate 2 bites of salad, and suddenly got up and left the party without saying goodbye.

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? It makes me sad that the poorer neighborhoods do not have more access to healthy food. You go to certain neighborhoods and all you see are bodegas with a few rotten apples out front and fast food places. I'm sure it's an extremely complex problem, just as all the socio-economic problems of this city are, and I can't offer any sort of practical solution to the problem. But I wish it were different.

Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? Oh I think about it all the time, whenever I get caught in a traffic jam or someone is rude walking down the street. All it takes though, is a couple of days being someplace else to remind me of why I live here and why I'll probably never leave.

Do you have a favorite New York celebrity sighting or encounter? We have catered events for many celebrities and I suppose it's good for business to be able to say that you have these people as clients....but really I just like working for anyone, famous or not, who is nice, treats our staff respectfully, appreciates good food, and pays their bill on time.

What's your current soundtrack? In the kitchen there is a constant negotiation going on between poppy dance music and traditional Mexican music.

Best cheap eat in the city. I love San Loco. The one in Williamsburg plays great music and the margaritas are nice and strong.