Saturday, April 22, 2006

Help in the kitchen?

I have recently spent some timed perusing the Craigslist job listings, as two of my three children were unemployed. In addition to finding one of them I job, I ran across an interesting ad that mentioned a new start-up:

“Deeelish! is a new Menlo Park retail facility where customers prepare healthy, gourmet meals in our kitchen and cook them at home.”

This piqued my interest. So I dug a little deeper and found an article on a Stanford University bulletin board that provided a bit more information:

“Deeelish is a start-up business in the meal preparation and facilitation industry. The Meal Facilitation and Preparation business (MFP) is a young, rapidly expanding industry offering a service that enables customers to prepare a large number of meals more quickly and at a lower cost than they could achieve on their own. Deeelish offers a monthly menu of 14 ready-to-cook entrees, from which the customer chooses a subset (8 or 12 entrees) to prepare at a prescheduled session. At the facility customers will cycle through individual entrée prep stations, with each station fully equipped and stocked with pre-chopped, sautéed and otherwise prepared ingredients, so that the customer needs only to follow simple, step-by-step instructions to assemble the entrée. Completed entrees are taken home to be frozen for cooking and consumption at a later date.”

My initial response to all of this was: Do parents nowadays really need a communal kitchen, with pre-chopped and pre-cooked ingredients, recipes, and a helping hand to cook meals for their families. Is it really that hard? This boggles my mind. Now I know that I love food and that cooking is enjoyable to me, while it isn’t so for others, but still…it’s really not that hard. Even if your parent/grandparent/sibling didn’t teach you how to cook, at least minimally, you know your family has to eat. Planning a meal is no more difficult than planning a meeting. Following a recipe is just as easy as loading an Apple computer program. Shopping for food is like shopping for office supplies. Creating a meal is certainly simpler than creating an ad campaign. People, intelligent people, do really difficult things every day. Why can’t they cook? If my children’s health and welfare depended on me to write ad copy for Hummers, I would damn well figure out how to do it. Would I need a special office and 5 hand-holders to get me through it? Hell, no.

But after due consideration, and a good talking to by my daughter, I had a change of heart and came down off my high horse: We do want people to be more comfortable in the kitchen and we do want our children to grow up with sit-down healthy meals. These are important things., and if it takes a place like Deelish! To accomplish this, then maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. For some, it may kick-start a desire to learn more and do more in the kitchen, for others, it may become a regular gig. Either way, it can be considered a good thing: Fresh, great tasting food on the table for the family.


lee said...

It's so funny that you wrote a post about this. A friend of mine recently called me because she had heard about this idea and thought I should start one. I had to patiently explain that it really wasn't my style. I am REALLY into food and I can't imagine it would be anything other than depressing to be around people who think this is the best way to make food. I'm sorry if that's too negative but that's how I feel. I'm sad when I think about the future where no one knows how to make a simple, delicious meal for their family. If you hadn't guessed, I am a glass half-empty person. I want to be reincarnated as an optimist!

Mrs. B said...

For the most part I do agree with you Lee. My first reaction was rather violent, tempered only by my daughter. One way to look at it is that this is a home ec class for adults. And that the food they will be serving beats the hell out of boxed mac and cheese, canned veggies, or some other fairly inedible creation. One can only hope!

Tea said...

This is really interesting. I think there are a lot of people who simply don't cook anymore. Last week I found myself in the Berkeley Whole Foods (a very large, swanky one) at about 6pm, and the action in the deli and salad bar section (cold salad bar and "hot bar" with things like mac and cheese, risotto, etc.) was astounding. This was dinner for a huge number of people. It's like a cafeteria for grownups. And the few times I've gotten food there, it never tastes as good as it looks.

Anonymous said...

Look- I like cooking, I read cook books for fun. I cook 3 nights a week, my husband cooks 1, with a leftover night after that and we're not at home the other 2.
I'm also a full time IT Ops manager and a mom. I'll be considering deelish to cutdown my overall prep time and give me additional ideas and variety at our table while still being better than
mac and cheese.
If it can do that - great!
I think you may have who they are targeting wrong - if you work, time is precious - more than money.
Then I might be able to get the laundry done or play with my son more instead of plunking him in front of the TV to get a little cooking done between 6:30 when I get home and 7:15pm.
I'll be trying it out
- a mom in menlo park ca

Mrs. B said...

I certainly understand time being precious. I, too, work full time and have kids in activities. And I don't have a husband who cooks. So I do see your point here. What is interesting is they are doing what I have been doing for ten years, something I learned from a friend's personal chef. On Sunday I get up, go to the store, shop, and come home and cook a week's meals in about 2 hours. All my prep is done at once—the knives come out once,the kitchen is messy once. I can chop onions for 3 dishes at once. I make soups, stews, curries, casseroles, the occasional meatloaf. Sometimes I even double a recipe for the freezer or for a sick friend. When I am done,the food goes in the fridge to be popped in the oven or heated on the stove.The difference between what I do and what deelish does is probably cost, and maybe a bit of time. So if spending money to save time is helpful, then by all means, people should take advantage of it. I, personally, would miss my time in the kitchen, which many time was spent with my kids. Sometimes helping, sometimes sitting at the table with an activity. To each his own. Let me know how it is, if you do try it.

Terry said...

A different but related "who-for-the-love-of-god-thought-the-world-needed-this" concept is a restaurant here in Chicago: Cereality Cereal Bar & Cafe. Yep, a restaurant that serves cereal. Citysearch calls it a "high-concept cafe serving busy [Chicago] Loopers brand name cereals with creative toppings." Having someone do lots of prep work for you is one thing--and I personally find this to be one of the most enjoyable parts of cooking--but going out for cereal? Wow. Guess you can sell anything with the right marketing.

Mrs. B said...

Wow Terryl I thought they only had those cereal bars on college campuses. I suppose if you put one conveniently on an el line, it would be easy to swoop in and pick up a bowl to eat on the commute, and it might do a good business. But how hard is it to open a box of cereal at home? I guess it could just be a novelty or guilty pleasure. When you get that once-a-year yen for Lucky Charms or Capn Crunch or don't want anyone to know that you secretly love Cocoa Puffs....

Tom said...

I'll be picking up our Deelish order later today, because my wife and I are big fans. There were two aspects you missed in your posting, which were what made us try the service and keep using it. First, every recipe takes roughly half-an-hour to prepare, because the sauces and other time-intensive parts are already done. That's not a half-hour spent at the stove, by the way, but the time from when the first one of us walks in the door until we sit down at the table. The other big seller is that the food really is "deelish", good enough that I'd invest the time if I had it to make these recipes from scratch. Oh, one more point: for $3.00 a meal more (which is really two meals for us), the Deelish staff will do all the prepping and packaging. My only prep time is to once a month stop by the store to pick up our order and load it into the fridge.