What’s in the box from Chef’s Plate, one of the recipe-kit delivery services taking over Toronto’s home kitchens
You can’t fire up a podcast these days without hearing a spot for Blue Apron, the recipe-kit startup that—so much for those promo codes—does not operate here. But Toronto has its own services that will drop boxes of ready-to-prep ingredients right at your doorstep. We’re cooking our way through them to find out how they work and, most importantly, taste.
What comes in each box, and how much does it cost?
More Dish in a Box
If you’ve been following this series to this point, you’ll recognize the familiar three-meals-for-two-people approach that is Chef’s Plate’s default selection: it’s $65.70, or $10.95 per serving. (There are two-recipe and four-recipe options, too.) Family boxes, with two-to-four recipes for four people, are also available, starting at $78, or $9.75 per serving. There are seven recipes to choose from each week, including at least one gluten-free option, and each is rated either easy, medium or hard, depending on how much of a kitchen challenge you’re after. As with the other recipe-kit delivery services out there, you can skip a delivery anytime, but Chef’s Plate lets you put your account into a state of suspended animation with a handy “pause” button on the account profile page, that will stop all further deliveries until you switch it back on. (The value of this will become apparent the first time an unexpected box lands at your doorstep the day after a big trip to the farmers market, because you forgot to update your delivery preferences.)
How is everything packaged?
If you read our review of Goodfood, this insulated, double-lidded box should look very familiar. The box, and everything inside it, is recyclable. (Yes, even the freezer packs that keep the meat cold.) Each recipe is sealed in a sturdy paper bag with a plastic window. One nice touch about the bags for macronutrient trackers: each one has a real, commercial-grade nutrition label for the recipe inside.
This delivery included three recipe kits, all declared “easy” by Chef’s Plate’s three-tier difficulty scale:
• Black Bean Beef Stir-fry
• Fish Tacos & Salsa Fresca (below)
• Walnut Pesto Fettuccine
Each meal comes with step-by-step directions and photos on a letter-sized recipe card. The first instruction: “Read the entire recipe card.” A bit stern, perhaps—you didn’t think I was just going to start dicing onions and flinging carrots into a pan like some impatient novice, did you? Me? Never—but a good tip all the same. Unlike several of its competitors, Chef’s Plate does not publish its complete recipes on its web site, so hold onto those recipe cards if you like what you make.
And now, let’s get cooking!
(After first reading through the entire recipe, of course.)
Today, we’re going to be making fish tacos. Summer must surely be just around the corner if we’re making fish tacos, right? Even though we’re not cooking our tilapia al fresco, there’s definitely something about grilled fish in a tortilla that says it’s safe, at last, to put away the long sleeves.
Let’s start with that beloved kitchen pastime: slicing napa cabbage:
And we’ll dice, chop and quarter the rest of our raw ingredients: tomatoes, a jalapeño pepper, cilantro, onion and a lime:
In fairly short order, we’re ready to get down to the business of seasoning the tilapia. This “Baja” spice blend contains paprika, onion powder and ground cumin:
The fish goes into a hot, non-stick pan for three minutes per side, until it can be easily flaked apart with a spatula:
Once the fish is done, set it aside and make the salsa fresca, combining the tomato, onion, cilantro and part of the lime juice:
And the yogurt sauce, which combines Greek yogurt (from a two per cent Oikos pod) with the diced jalapeño and a healthy squirt of fresh lime juice:
Now, the fun part: Build the tacos using that no-longer-quite-so-frivolous taco stand you picked up for a Cinco de Mayo taco party last year and then promptly stashed in the back of an out-of-the-way cabinet and nearly forgot you even owned. (It’s okay if you don’t have one: just build the tacos flat on a plate.)
Fish first, then salsa fresca…
… then the yogurt sauce:
How was it?
Listen, you’re probably not signing up for a $65-per-week service to get more tilapia in your life. Nobody really craves tilapia, the skinless chicken breast of the fish farm. But you’re not having fish for dinner: you’re having fish tacos, and tilapia is a perfectly acceptable fish to dredge in a smoky spice blend and bury under a pile of onion, tomato, cilantro and lime. With the fresh cabbage, it made for a summery, crunchy mouthful—though sour cream, a higher-fat yogurt or even Mexican crema would have been a richer counterpoint to the bite of the other toppings. (If you keep any of the above in your fridge, use it and save that Oikos pod for breakfast.)
In the wild west that is the Canadian meal-kit delivery market, get used to hearing about Chef’s Plate, which is reportedly flush with venture capital money and eyeing a big expansion into Quebec, along with an eventual IPO. It offers a service that is almost interchangeable with its largest competitor, Goodfood, down to the packaging and quality of its ingredients, and the presentation of its recipe cards. There’s very little, right now, to set them apart in the eyes of the average home cook.
Order this box if
You’re looking for a serious meal-kit subscription, but you also really like shopping at farmers’ markets. With Chef’s Plate’s option to easily pause your deliveries indefinitely, you can make sure you only receive a box when you’re too busy to pick up whatever in-season produce catches your eye. It’s also an especially attractive feature as summer vacations kick in.