Josie McKinney, owner of the downtown Killeen eatery and cooking school, Let’s Eat Texas, is probably not the kind of chef you expected in the Texas style restaurant.
An Alaska native, McKinney owned and operated a bed and breakfast with a cooking school in her home state for about 13 years. Her family gradually migrated to the contiguous states, and McKinney decided to follow.
“I’m a fifth generation Alaskan and lived my whole life there before deciding I needed to thaw,” she said.
McKinney found an old property at 207 East Ave. D in Killeen for her business in February 2019 and spent months doing construction to reveal its beauty and history. Her restaurant opened its doors last October before closing like so many others due to COVID-19 restrictions in March.
While her location and the circumstances of running a restaurant changed drastically, her passion and dedication to nutritious and delicious food didn’t.
In order to help her regular customers and people who are simply just not used to cooking at home, McKinney got creative and started designing nutritious dinner kits to provide the community with locally sourced and high-quality meals.
“The dinner kits are a way to make sure people have the option of eating healthy when the easiest way to ride out this mess is greasy bags in the drive-thru,” she said. “The meal kits are designed to give families alternatives.”
The dinner kits, offered Tuesday through Friday, are precooked and ready to reheat. Barbecue, meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, lasagna and pork chop dinner kits are available for order on her Facebook page Let’s Eat Texas or via phone at 254-768-0106. They cost $20 each.
According to McKinney’s Facebook post, the kits either feed two very hungry adults or a small family with standard-size portions.
“So far everyone seems to love all the options, but the lasagna, pork chops and meatloaf are the most popular,” she said. “We make fresh bread and our own dressings and many sides to choose from.”
Since McKinney takes requests to dietary modifications like vegan, keto or gluten free seriously, the kits can brighten everyone’s meal plan.
“My customers know exactly what they are getting when they eat our food,” she said. “Nothing is fried or processed. Everything is as fresh and local as we can get.”
Kissa Vaughn, who previously took a cooking class at Let’s Eat Texas, already bought one of the dinner kits.
“The food was delicious and we all loved it,” she said. “Our 4-year-old had four helpings of meat and declared it to be super duper.”
Vaughn decided to get the dinner kit not only to provide her family with nutritious food, but also to support local businesses through rough times.
“I just know that Josie was trying to keep her business going when she can’t have her restaurant open, so I wanted to help if I could,” she said.
McKinney is now working on the idea of providing her popular cooking classes online so people can take advantage and improve their cooking skills during times of social distancing and self-isolation.
“It’s hard to get good sound quality and clear picture using an iPhone or whatever most of us have on hand,” she said. “But a group of my students and I are going to test a short video session out and see how it is.”
If it’s not viable, McKinney wants to look into more professional equipment.
Some of her former students are anxiously awaiting the chance of virtual classes — not because they don’t how to cook but to find new dinner ideas and connect with friends.
“We don’t take Josie’s cooking classes because we struggle to cook at home, we participate because they provide an opportunity to learn a new recipe, socialize with friends and enjoy a great meal,” said Colleen Crouch.
Crouch and her husband Bob Crouch are “looking forward to taking Josie’s virtual classes as a welcome break from the challenges of social isolation,” she said.