Thanksgiving may be one of America’s most established cooking holidays, but this year even the Barefoot Contessa is getting an assist in the kitchen: in an article earlier this week about the premade ingredients she’d be incorporating into her Thursday spread, Ina Garten told the New York Times “Whatever you need to do to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table is OK.”

Closer to home, in the Triangle, some area cooks turned to a thriving local company to help deliver the essentials. No, not Blue Apron, but Redstart Foods, a “farm-forward” meal delivery and ingredient company founded by chef Matt Northrup in 2015.

Thanksgiving is a busy week for Northrup, 32, who runs Redstart Foods out of a simple but sparkling commercial kitchen in a North Roxboro Street storefront. The window for Thanksgiving orders has now passed, but offers a tempting preview of future holiday menus, with dishes ranging from the traditional (herb-roasted turkey breast at $25, green bean casserole at $18.50) to the more ambitious (vegan cottage pie with smoked mushrooms and lentils at $29, a beautifully latticed apple sorghum pie at $32, plum mostarda, a Redstart favorite, at $10.50).

Northrup moved to Durham from Charlottesville, Virginia (and before that, Greensboro) more than a decade ago with his wife Jordan Owens. For years, he worked in a Whole Foods kitchen and at restaurants like Pizzeria Toro and Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop before striking out on his own. Redstart was initially oriented toward catering—Northrup still caters for the Durham Bulls players before games—but shifted almost exclusively to meal deliveries during the pandemic.

Every Thursday at 2 p.m. the online shop updates with meals and ingredients (often, Northrup notes, he can see customers lingering in the shopping cart queue, waiting for the week’s menu to go live); orders are due by Saturday at midnight. On Tuesdays, deliveries go out to customers in Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough.

But don’t call Redstart a meal prep company: When I use the phrase in our interview, Northrup winces a little.

“I think when you [say] “meal prep” people associate it more with, like, the fitness community or being a busy parent and cooking a huge casserole,” Northrup says. “Like it’s more of a chore. Our whole thing has always been that just because we’re a prepared meal company, it doesn’t have to be lasagna every week. We do things like that, too, but we also try to have more ambitious food. Most of our customers are repeat customers and we try to have a lot of variety.”

This is true: the service Northrup offers is more akin to having a personal chef supplement your meals than to stashing a rote pile of black takeout containers with sliced broccoli and salmon in your fridge. Instead, meals are made from in-season produce and ingredients sourced from local farms and businesses like Homeland Creamery, Blue Sky Farms, Red’s Quality Acre, and Spicewalla Brand Spices.

Restaurant-grade meals like the ones that Redstart offers largely cater to a higher-income bracket, of course. But meal subscription services and takeout alike have seen a rise in popularity over the past few years, pointing to the fact that people are indeed looking for a little help in the kitchen: according to market research firm Edison Trends, even before the onset of the pandemic food delivery services in the United States were skyrocketing and experienced an 85 percent growth rate between January 2018 and February 2020. The pandemic helped boost meal kit delivery services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, and while growth has slowed with restaurants reopened, projections still expect the U.S. meal delivery market to reach more than $10 billion by 2024, a spike from 2021’s $6.9 billion.

“What Matt is doing is the start of the future, a little bit,” says Jessie Jayne, a chef who has worked in the Triangle restaurant scene for more than ten years, and at Redstart for the past two-and-a-half. “There’s a big shift in the industry to wanting more takeout and I see it at other places I work, too. But Matt’s kind of ahead of the game, in that it’s his business model.”

While there are other catering companies in the Triangle, Redstart is distinctive in that Northrup went all-in with delivery. Redstart typically delivers around 150 orders a week, he says, and operates with six employees (five part-time, one full); Moonbelly Meat Co. owner Anna Gibala also rents space from Redstart.

Northrup played and toured in bands for years before moving to the Triangle, and this checks out: as a business owner, he has the chill-but-orderly vibe of a musician used to keeping time.

“He’s very well-organized,” Jayne says of Northrup’s leadership. “I have a lot of respect for him and Redstart as a whole. It’s been very cool watching them grow.”

And while Redstart doesn’t involve much customer interface, its lively Instagram showcases vibrant meals, behind-the-scenes footage (babies—Northrup is dad to Romy, 3, and Alvie, 1—and camaraderie among prep chefs), and self-deprecating captions, making customers feel right at home.

The regular menu changes each week, but recent items have included braised lentils with broccoli rabe, spare ribs with sesame and lime, and mixed bean stew with labneh and torn olive dressing. Surely even Ina Garten would be tempted by spreads like these.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.

Follow Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards on Twitter or send an email to