The Internet wants to feed you. A bunch of tech companies are advertising convenience in an effort to make their way into the food chain, most of them by marketing restaurant-delivery services to lazy home diners. But the latest spate of apps are going for lazy home chefs, and now they have San Diego in their crosshairs.
Services such as Blue Apron, Plated, and Gobble mail chef-prepared meals to your home. Actually, they’re half prepared. Fresh ingredients are cleaned and cut, occasionally par-cooked, and shipped in coolers along with directions that even a kitchen amateur can handle. After being inundated for two weeks with Facebook ads, I finally bit.
I went with Gobble, which offered an attractive introductory deal — three two-person meals for the price of one for roughly $25 total. Gobble’s chef devises a weekly menu, prepared for you to cook a meal for two in a single pan within ten minutes. In other words, this Silicon Valley company’s hi-tech business model involves hiring chefs to chop vegetables all day.
The week I tried it, my choices included a caraway-encrusted salmon, Filipino afritada stew, and Korean beef tacos. The vacuum-sealed and Ziplock-bagged ingredients arrived in a makeshift cooler — ice packs and shiny inflated insulation lining a cardboard box.
The bulgogi tacos came with corn tortillas, two tiny plastic bottles of sauce, a radish, lime, daikon sprouts, chopped beef, and a slaw of shredded cabbage, carrots, green onions, and radish. A separate bag of jasmine rice cooked in the microwave as a side dish.
The single-pan, ten-minute promise did not manifest itself on this dish. Its recipe card called for heating eight corn tortillas for a minute apiece — and that’s after five minutes of cooking the beef.
Aside from that, I was surprised at how quickly you can cook something when you don’t have to do any of the prepwork. Just toss the items in the pan as directed. Simple. The tacos came out looking pretty close to those pictured on the recipe card.
However, Gobble promises “Michelin-worthy” meals using fresh and local ingredients, and that’s a blatant overreach by their marketing department. Each of the meals I tried was fine but not exceptional. Portion sizes were not huge but they were sufficient, and the ingredients were above average…with the exception of the corn tortillas, which sucked big time.
I also didn’t like all of the packaging involved, though to be fair Gobble did pick up the cooler box at my request to reuse for a future order. By the way, if I hadn’t canceled future orders, Gobble would have scheduled and charged me for the next shipment automatically.
I can see this working for couples who don’t like to shop for groceries, don’t want to go out, and don’t have much time to cook. It’s much better than a TV dinner. For about 12 bucks a person, you get to feel like you’re eating a balanced meal without having do much work.
But for me, that’s going-out money, and I’d rather spend it actually enjoying being at a local restaurant.