In a recent New York Times magazine article, Michael Pollan explained that while there are more food shows on television than ever before, Americans are actually cooking less than at any point in the past. I have to admit that while cooking shows once made me want to try my hand at new techniques, nowadays they're more likely to send me to a restaurant than into the kitchen. Which is why I'm not surprised that delivery companies that attempt to bridge the gap between Top Chef and Fresh Direct are the latest at-home cooking trend.
One of the newest is Chefday, launched in December by three French foodies/NYC transplants working out of a Bushwick warehouse. The concept: dial-a-dinner and they'll send you all the ingredients to prepare a high-end recipe designed by a New York chef like Jehangir Mehta of Graffiti or Kevin Adey of Northeast Kingdom. Each recipe has an online video in which the chef shows you how to prepare your meal in about half an hour. There's nutritional information available for each recipe, which tells you what home equipment you'll need to prepare it, and you can purchase two, four, six or eight servings.
"There are so many recipes out there on the Internet, but it's hard to know which ones are good, and they don't always give you a good measure of how much time and prep they'll take," says Laurent Moisi, Chefday's co-founder. "Here, you know you're getting a top-quality recipe and you can learn how to make it from the comfort of your own home, without having to even go get all the ingredients."
Sounds like a necessary invention for us lazy, er--busy--New Yorkers, so I gave Chefday a try last week, ordering the scallop risotto, by Luis Plaza, executive chef at Grotto. I chose the later of two delivery windows (3-5pm or 7-9pm), and when I got home at 7:15 my dinner ingredients were there waiting for me. Chefday does not trust you to have anything on hand--they supply everything right down to the salt and olive oil (which, as a person who has been known to run out of salt, I appreciated).
At $34.95 for two servings it's not cheap, but the ingredients are high-quality (organic butter, nice fresh chives) and they didn't skimp on the important part--eight beautiful, hefty sea scallops. The video was helpful and fun to follow. They present it step-by-step, showing you how to do just one thing at a time--you click continue when you're ready for the next one, so it's at your pace, not theirs.
The recipe did take me about 15 minutes longer than the allotted 30, but for some reason risotto always takes me longer than directed, so that could be my fault. I have to say that the end result was perhaps the best risotto I've made. I do question whether it's worth the price (for $34.95 you can get some solid Seamless!) but this way you do get to feel better about yourself, with minimal effort. And, it's definitely a good option for aspiring chefs who need Valentine's cooking help. If you're after a more consistent solution to your dinner problems, Chefday offers 15% if you go with the subscription model, ordering at least once every two weeks. I also admire their "Cook 1, Feed 1" policy, whereby they'll donate one meal's worth to Food Bank For NYC for every portion you order--negating some of that "am I a bad person if I can't even do my own grocery shopping" guilt.
I do tend to look down on "cheating" cooking methods like this--who can't measure out their own salt?--but to be honest, this was the first time I had cooked a proper meal at home in two weeks, and the result was quite tasty. I ordered the two-serving size, so I can also tell you that having leftover cheesy risotto on a lazy Saturday certainly bests delivery-quality Pad Thai. Now, back to that Top Chef marathon.
Chefday isn't the only ingredients-to-table delivery service in Brooklyn. Fellow contributor Kate Hooker checked out Blue Apron, based in East Williamsburg, on the blog.
Chefday's scallop risotto (left) and mine. Photos: Chefday, Brendan Spiegel
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