I don’t know how to cook.
Well, that’s not true. I know how to make chilli. But it’s San Francisco summer right now, and a hot bowl of chilli when it’s 80 degrees outside does not sound too appetizing.
That’s why I decided to give Plated a try.
Plated is like a do-it-yourself food-delivery service, much like Blue Apron. You go to the website and enter your ZIP code. You can also let Plated know whether you have any dietary restrictions, or if you simply just don’t like something. Which days your food gets delivered depends on where you live.
Each week, there are seven menu items created by Plated chefs: four meat and fish dishes, and three vegetarian options.
It costs around $US12 per plate, and you need to order a minimum of four plates. If you spend $US50, however, you get free shipping (shipping costs around $US20). So it’s worth tacking on a dessert for around $US4 so you don’t have to pay the extra fee.
You can order a la carte, or you can sign up for a weekly subscription, which comes with its own perks, such as 20% off all plates. You even get a couple bonus plates if you refer a friend.
And that’s it; a box full of portioned ingredients lands on your doorstep, and you’re able to start cooking.
Nick Taranto, the co-CEO of Plated and former Goldman Sachs employee, said he started the company because he was feeling depressed about gaining weight and being unhealthy.
“When I was living on West 14th Street and taking the E train to Goldman Sachs it got so bad that a homeless man handing out papers in the train station would look at me and say, ‘cheer up young man’,” he told Business Insider in an interview in February.
He and his friend Josh Hix started Plated in 2012, and since then it has grown to making deliveries in 80% of the continental US, according to the Plated website. And it’s raised more than $US21 million from investors.
The site makes it easy to opt in or out of some foods. My family doesn't eat meat, so we opted to skip the beef.
You can choose how many plates you want delivered, as well as what days you want the delivery to be sent. If you have a subscription, you can let Plated know if you want to skip a week altogether.
This was my order for the week. For the purposes of this story, I decided to tackle the squid ink pasta with calamari and the bread pudding for dessert.
The box was delivered to the house on Tuesday night. According to Plated, it's 100% recyclable and biodegradable.
It's all packaged really nicely. The bags are biodegradable, and there are heavy-duty ice packs and insulation. So even if you don't come home till later in the evening, your food stays nice and cold.
The other side gives you a list of ingredients, plus pictures of what each step should look like. It also tells you what you're going to need from your own pantry. In this case: water, salt, and pepper.
I read through all the directions as Plated suggests, and off I went. The first step was getting the water boiling.
After that came prepping all the ingredients. Since I'm not much of a cook, this step took a little longer than it probably should have.
Plated makes it easy to look like you're a pro, though. This parsley was just for garnish. They gave me a ton of it, so I only used about half.
Here's the calamari. It's not much to look at, and it was pretty stinky. But it did make me feel like I was doing something fancy.
About 20 minutes later, all my ingredients were prepped. People who have a little more experience in the kitchen might be able to get this part done in around 10 minutes.
The downside, though, is that sometimes you don't really know what you're adding. The 'spice packet' had some really spicy peppers in it. Had I been following a real recipe, I probably would have cut that part by half because I don't like things too spicy.
Finally it was time to 'drop the pasta.' I even said that out loud, because I've heard people say that on 'Top Chef.'
Here's where I deviated a little bit from the recipe. It said to drain the pasta and then pour the sauce over it. Instead I opted to put the pasta in the sauce. I also added some more garlic, just because I like garlic.
That's the beauty of Plated. You don't need to add anything to your dishes, but if you want to and know how, you can tweak everything to your liking.
And that's it! About 45 minutes later, I had a really great meal, although it was a tad on the spicy side. There was even a little left over for lunch the next day.
Next came dessert. Again, this made me feel like a fancy chef. I've never cut brioche into half-inch pieces before.
Again, the pre-portioned ingredients made putting everything together quite simple. There was even a little pat of butter for me to grease the tins.
Luckily I had all the necessary kitchen gadgets to make this a success. But even if you don't have your own little ramekins, Plated provides you with the necessary tools.
Everything had to sit and soak for a while, so I took the opportunity to clean up. Just like a real chef would.
I really enjoyed using Plated. From signing up for the service, to actually following all the recipes, I found it to be a simple way to enjoy a healthy dinner without having to spend time at the grocery story or figuring out portions and ingredients.
It's great for beginners because there's really no way to mess it up. And people with more-advanced cooking skills can use the recipes as a jumping-off point to make more-complicated meals.
Although $US12 a plate is a little on the pricey side, it is possible to stretch it out and have enough left over for lunch the next day. I probably won't sign up for the subscription service, but for weeks that I know I'm going to busy, or if I want to impress someone with a fancy healthy meal, Plated is a sure bet.