Ever had a day when sudden culinary inspiration strikes you, prodding you to unleash the inner Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver, but the inspiration falls flat when you set out to chop onions? Ever been sure you want Khao Suey for dinner, but totally unsure about how to make it? The struggle is real. Luckily, chef boxes and meal kits are an easy-peasy solution to the whole gamut of problems faced by budding cooks, enthusiasts and anyone who is hard pressed for time or doesn’t know where to source the ingredients for an exotic dish.
First Things First
The concept of meal kits in India started to take shape sometime in late 2014, with providers like Haute Chef, iChef and more making their humble beginnings in Mumbai. While the concept of meal kits is popular in the US, with services like Blue Apron, Plated and HelloFresh catering to busy professionals and enthusiasts who aren’t kitchen-savvy, there is a lot of room in India, currently for meal kits or chef boxes to make their mark.
We decided to take a look at this new innovation in the context of the Indian market, and see for ourselves whether this trend would catch on in Delhi. So far, Delhi/NCR has only a handful of homegrown chef boxes available. We spoke to Shubham Maheshwari, Founder and CEO of Being Chef, which began operations in 2014 about his venture and the kind of acceptance in the market currently.
Prompted by the growing need for a redressal mechanism for the big inconvenience that cooking can be for bachelors and lazy cooks alike, Shubham was struck by the idea of delivering ready-to-cook meal kits when he and his friends tried to cook a meal, realising that although it looks easy on television cookery shows, chopping onions and balancing proportions is, indeed, a difficult science.
Months of researching the market followed, and after quitting his consulting job, Shubham began work on the beta version of Being Chef – and after rounds of improvisations, the polished product is testing the waters in Delhi & NCR. He describes the proposition of Being Chef to be focused on simplifying the process of cooking, making it a streamlined and fun activity that is free of any hassles. Being Chef, in fact, delivers meal kits that take all of 5 minutes to cook with a simple 8 step process. What’s more, it is an end-to-end kit with every element from the ingredient to garnish covered.
So far, Being Chef has received a positive response from the market, and Shubham believes that the acceptance right now is at a nascent stage because of low awareness and low level of comfort among people with the idea of standing in the kitchen. Ready-made food is easily available, so most people opt for food delivery. But, convenience notwithstanding, there is a low level of quality assurance in the case of food delivery. For instance, garlic bread will turn soggy during transit. Cooking with fresh ingredients; that’s a healthier option though. Growing consciousness and a developing appetite for experimentation paint an optimistic picture in Shubham’s case.
What’s even more interesting to note is that the primary target for chef boxes is not limited to bachelors. It seems, a growing number of housewives too are adopting to it for their kitty parties – eager to show off their cooking skills. Newly-weds are also taking to it, with husbands keen to impress their wives, and even couples in general eager to cook together. Cooking is becoming a fun group activity, and chef boxes go a long way in making it easy.
As far as price points are concerned, they vary with the type of segments being serviced. For instance, A more niche service, Cook Gourmet, offers gourmet meal kits priced anywhere between INR 400-600 per kit (serves two). The premise of this service is to provide a gourmet cooking experience to culinary enthusiasts and convenience is not the main focus here, with recipes taking a longer time to prepare. However, it’s a fun option for those looking to unleash their inner Nigella Lawson (or Jamie Oliver). At the other end of the spectrum, Being Chef provides meal kits that are affordable, with meals starting at INR 109.
Whatever be the key focus – convenience, or experience, meal kits are yet to make a big splash in Delhi & NCR. With growing marketing efforts by the service providers (Being Chef plans to aggressively scale up), we’re sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of chef boxes very soon.
All in all, chef boxes are a great, fun way to begin your journey into masterchef-dom, or even a great way to bond with friends over a cook-a-thon. It’s an easy way to cook, without having to cry your eyes out over chopping onions. But how far chef boxes will succeed in taking Delhi by storm is yet to be seen, with food delivery still being the preferred option and readily available options like domestic help to cook your meals.