If you’re like me you probably live a very busy lifestyle. Between work, spending time with friends and family, attending events, and the increasingly infrequent trips to the gym, it’s often hard to find any time to make meals at home. That’s where Chef’s Plate comes in – a convenient gourmet meal service that delivers chef-designed recipes (in this case from Executive Chef Jason Rosso of Milestones restaurants) along with the fresh, pre-portioned ingredients that you’ll need. We gave the service a try – read on for our first hand experience.
The box was delivered on a Monday afternoon (as with all Chef’s Plate deliveries), and I picked it up from my condo concierge later that night. The box was small enough to fit in the fridge, and that’s where it went when I got home, as I knew we wouldn’t be able to make the meals till the next day. The fresh ingredients are guaranteed to last upto five days, so you do have flexibility as to when you want to prepare them. On Tuesday, we were ready to cook, and opened the box. Inside were all the ingredients, along with ice packs inside a thermal liner, and the corresponding recipes.
We had two meals – pan-seared scallops with baby spinach and pomegranate and a vegetarian chowder. I specifically chose these meals as I thought they would be challenging if I had to make them on my own. Scallops are expensive proteins and easy to overcook, while for the chowder the difficulty lies in getting the consistency and texture just right. If I’m truly going to be a chef at home, I might as well go for broke. Note both were rated as “medium” difficulty, which made me feel more at ease. All of the ingredients were clearly labelled, and you just had to sort the ingredients by recipe. Note, each meal serves two people, so we really only needed to prepare one for dinner that night, but we wanted to prepare both at once as we knew the rest of the week would be busy. So we would definitely have enough for lunch the next day as well, which is great.
The scallops recipe called for the pomegranate dressing to be made first, as it needed time to be reduced. It was as simple as mixing the pomegranate juice, honey, and spices in a saucepan, then adding the lemon juice and cornstarch I already mixed in a separate bowl, and then letting it simmer for about ten minutes. Next came the scallops – they needed to be seared for about two minutes on one side, and then another minute or so on the other. The recipe included a tip to ensure that the scallops were perfectly seared, and they did turn out perfectly. Sautéing the baby spinach was probably the most challenging step in the process, only because there was a lot of it, and so they had to be done in batches and quickly so that they don’t burn, but even this step wasn’t very hard. Finally, the fun part came – the plating. I laid a bed of spinach, placed three scallops on top, sprinkled some craisins, and then drizzled the pomegranate dressing, and voilà – a beautiful plate was produced.
The vegetarian chowder wasn’t much harder. The potato had to be peeled and diced, the onion chopped, and the squash pieces cut in half. At this point, it was just about adding the ingredients to the pot at the right times, checking every now and then for the right doneness of some vegetables, and that’s it. Finally, the bread had to be sliced, toasted, then buttered, the chowder scooped into a bowl. Placing the bread slices on top completes the plating.
So the dishes look great, but the more important question on your mind is how did they taste? Thankfully, they were both delicious! The scallops were complemented perfectly in texture and flavour by the spinach and the pomegranate dressing. The chowder was creamy and smooth, and the different vegetables – corn, beans, squash, onion and potatoes – worked in harmony. We were pleasantly surprised that these dishes were produced at home – by two people who are admittedly are not experts at cooking. The recipes were very easy to follow, letting us complete both meals in roughly thirty minutes. Aside from being easy to prepare, the ingredients were very fresh and of great quality. You know exactly what goes into your meal, and the total calories per serving are clearly indicated on the recipe, so you know you’re eating something healthy.
Chef’s Plate is a time-saver in many ways. Firstly, it saves you time figuring out what you want to prepare – you simply choose from the six recipes on the website, which change weekly. Secondly, it saves you the trip to the grocery store, hunting for each ingredient. Thirdly, it saves preparation time as each ingredient is already properly portioned for the recipe. It also saves you money as you’re not paying for gas or public transit, and you’re not overbuying ingredients, some of which you might never use again. One more advantage in my mind is that cooking is a great social activity – whether you’re a parent cooking with your kids or a couple looking to spend more time at home together. Single guys and girls – this is an awesome date night activity. And because the recipes are so easy, you can rest assured that you’ll produce something delicious.
With Chef’s Plate, you sign up for a weekly plan, which you can put on hold, or cancel at any time. You can choose to be on one of three plans – two meals for two people, three meals for two people, or two meals for four people. You make your choices from the recipes that week, and delivery is the following Monday as long as you order by the Thursday before. Each meal costs $25 (working out to $12.50 per plate since it serves two people), and this includes all taxes and fees. Chef’s Plate is currently available in the Greater Toronto Area and is offering Best of Toronto readers $25 off their first order with the promo code BESTOFTORONTO, so that’s even more incentive for you to try this convenient service. You can access the promotion at:
Update: Chef’s Plate just updated their pricing, and as of May 4th, it is now even more affordable at just $10.95 per plate.
Photos by John Tan