Lake County business earns nod for making adults with special needs a priority

  • Jane McKay, left, and Meg Barnhart, the founders of the zen of slow cooking, will receive a Search Trailblazer Award May 11.

    Jane McKay, left, and Meg Barnhart, the founders of the zen of slow cooking, will receive a Search Trailblazer Award May 11. Courtesy of Lekas & Levine P.R.

Posted5/4/2017 11:22 AM

Submitted by Lekas & Levine P.R.

Lake County-based the zen of slow cooking is receiving a Search Trailblazer award for its commitment to employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The company is one of three being recognized by Search, a not-for-profit organization that assists adults with special needs with living arrangements, adult learning and employment programs, and medical, behavioral and therapy services.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Founded in 2012 by Meg Barnhart and Jane McKay, the zen of slow cooking creates gourmet spice blends, called Zen Blends, to be used in a slow cooker. Barnhart became inspired to start the company after discovering how a slow cooker could help her prepare nutritious, healthy meals while balancing the demands of raising three children, including one with special needs who requires extra TLC. Barnhart partnered with McKay, a young mom with a background in food science and recipe development.

The pair outsources their packaging to Planet Access Company, a local nonprofit business that employs adults with developmental disabilities and an enterprise of Search. In addition, Barnhart and McKay donate a portion of every Zen Blend purchase to Drishti Donation, the pair's own giving-back program. And when their busy schedule allows, they offer complimentary cooking classes to adults with special needs and donate slow cookers to their community kitchens.

Barnhart and McKay will receive the Trailblazer award on May 11th at Innovation Celebration!, a fundraising event at Gallerie Marchetti in Chicago that also will include a silent auction and live jazz.

The zen of slow cooking spice blends are sold at specialty grocers like Whole Foods, Sunset Foods and Peapod Online, as well as at The packs feature nonirradiated spices that are free of additives, chemicals and salt (exception: Smoky BBQ). Some blends feature whole spice infusions, which release their oils more slowly than ground spices for slow cooking.

• To submit Your news with one photo, go to To submit Your news with multiple photos, send it to

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.