Jeffrey Miller and Derek Dos Anjos on Their Ghost Kitchen, Parts & Labor

The chefs behind “ghost kitchen” Parts & Labor talk about making a connection with their customers and offering restaurant-quality meals you can take home.

Illustration by Chris Danger

Industry alums Jeffrey Miller (with 14 years’ experience, primarily in catering) and Derek Dos Anjos (chef-founder of former Anchor OTR with 27 years in the business) created Parts & Labor, the Oakley-based delivery meals kitchen—a “ghost kitchen,” for the uninitiated, which got its start in OTR—offering restaurant-quality prepared meals that diners can safely enjoy at home.

What made you decide to open a ghost kitchen?

JM: I wanted to be back in a kitchen…working and feeling productive and wanting to be safe. [Derek and I] had a good dynamic with each other outside of the kitchen. The opportunity to learn from him and collaborate and bring our strengths together was an opportunity that only a pandemic would make possible.

DD: There was a big push to get restaurants open after the quarantine, but it didn’t feel quite safe enough for a lot of people, and I think there was a need for restaurant-quality food to be delivered to people in a safe manner.

Are there unique benefits to opening a ghost kitchen, as opposed to a restaurant, during this uncertain time?

DD: COVID made perfect sense for us to find a space that we could cook out of and not have the overhead [expense] of a dining room and the uncertainty of knowing when people were going to start flooding restaurants again.

How does this setup play out on a typical day?

DD: We do pickup and delivery on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Monday and Wednesday [are reviewing] orders from the internet and finding out what we need to produce and get stuff delivered. It’s go, go, go, get the food produced and get it packaged and sent off, and on Friday, we regroup and see what we need to do better for the next week.

How did you decide on the menu format?

DD: We carry eight to 10 items, so those have to be things that people love. We wanted to have a menu that [was able to be served in] larger quantities so people could feel good about not just buying it for tonight’s dinner, but they could also have it another round. Or they could feed multiple people. That’s why our menu is broken down into medium and large portions. And the items have to fit together. Right now, Jeffrey makes a great smoked brisket, so we have menu items that complement that protein.

Why were these dishes a good fit?

DD: A lot of people are getting back into the groove, with kids back at school, their work starting up again, and quarantine cooking. They’re tired of it; people just want to be fed.

JM: From the get-go, we agreed that comfort food was a good focus. We were informed by what we thought people would want now in the new abnormal that we’re living in, and comfort was definitely something we were focused on. We have a lot of customers that feed their families, [so] it’s familiarity, and I think that’s a really big emotional state that people exist in right now.

What has been your favorite part of the whole experience so far?

JM: Cooking with Derek…the interaction and collaborative creation of the menu items. We each have our different strengths…Derek has been in the industry [since 1993] and cooking far longer than I have…so the opportunity to take what I know and bring it to the conversation, and then he adds his influences. Cocreation has been really great and very inspiring. You don’t get that opportunity unless you’re a head chef or sous chef in a large restaurant. That cocreation of new menu items makes all of the stress and frustration of running a business worth it.

DD: It’s having that interaction again with customers. Whether it’s through a phone call or e-mail or when we bring food out to their cars. They’re so excited to have that experience again, and it’s almost like they’re getting cooked by a private chef…it’s exciting. It’s done in a way they feel good about what they’re doing, and I feel good about what I’m doing, so it’s mutual satisfaction.

Parts & Labor, 3715 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 371-4464

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