Sometimes a grilled cheese sandwich is more than just bread and cheese; it’s soul food. Elana Karp, co-founder and head chef of Plated, the meal-kit service, understands that. Grilled cheese was the special sandwich her father made for her, and as a champion for good nutrition for underserved children and families early in her career, Karp also understood the importance of the nourishment that comes from cooking and eating together. That understanding underpins her work at Plated, and 24Life asked Karp how she makes nourishment part of her own routine.

24Life: Did you always see food as more than fuel for our bodies?

Elana Karp: It’s hard for me to think about special moments in my life that didn’t involve food in some way! And those moments usually involve people I care about. We gather around tables for toasts and celebrations. We mark holidays by cooking and enjoying traditional dishes. We enjoy impromptu treats just for fun. Yes, food is nourishing and it is also something that can bring people together in a visceral way. For me, helping people create meal experiences that are a catalyst for making personal connections is one of the best possible outcomes.

24Life: What’s your go-to dish or meal for busy weeknights or unexpected guests?

EK: I have a pan-roasted chicken recipe that is always a crowd-pleaser—and easy to whip up on a moment’s notice.

24Life: What’s your secret for getting a picky eater (little or big) to try something new?

EK: Getting the person involved and having them cook it with you.

24Life: Your least favorite food/flavor?

EK: Hard-boiled eggs (even though I love all other forms of eggs!).

24Life: Is there a chef or foodie you most admire for the work they do?

EK: Jose Andres for his herculean efforts in bringing food and hope to communities in need. His passion is contagious, and his dedication is beyond admirable.

24Life: Music in the kitchen, yes or no?

EK: Yes, I’m all for music in the kitchen. I love Fleetwood Mac.