Anne Vorrasi is InStyle's lifestyle editor. Follow her on Instagram.
Whether you manage a household of seven or are livin’ la vida solo, getting dinner on the table is often times no easy feat. My husband and I don’t even have kids—just a geriatric pooch—but our semi-erratic schedules don’t work in favor of us eating at the same hour each night. And when we do try to cook a real meal after a full day of work, one grocery store trip and 30-minute dog walk easily pushes supper to 9:30 or later.
So I decided to give Kitchensurfing a try. It’s a subscription service that’s available for Manhattan residents, plus some Brooklyn ones too, that sends a chef to homes once a week to whip up a balanced meal (a main and two sides) in under 30 minutes. Each meal comes out to $24-$30 a person, which is not ideal if you’re on a tight budget, but a worthwhile splurge to feel just a little bit pampered for one night a week. Plus, it’s stress-free in multiple ways: First, you don’t have to do anything other than let the chef in and show them to the kitchen. Second, you don’t need any fancy equipment—just your own dinner plates and cutlery—because all the gear from pots and pans to knives and tongs, along with the ingredients, comes with the chef. Too, when he or she leaves, the space will be left in a slightly more refreshed state than when they first arrived. (Well, maybe I shouldn’t promise this, but that is what happened to us.)
We had two nights of this unique chef service, and here's how it went down:
Dinner 1: Friday night
At 8 p.m., the time selected from a 6-9 p.m. window, a chef arrived at our door with a suitcase in tow. The luggage was filled with ingredients and all the tools she would need that evening, plus a chef's coat and apron. While she cooked, I tackled online bills, caught up on emails, and trolled Instagram. I periodically checked in on her to find out a little more intel on the service, and I learned that the reason they’re able to make an involved meal in such a short amount of time is because all the ingredients are prepped in a commissary kitchen during the day. All she has to do on-site is some minor chopping, the cooking, and the plating.
After a productive yet relaxing half hour, my husband and I sat down to eat. We had chosen our dinner menu from a list of six options on the website earlier that week, and got exactly what we expected: pan-seared trout with roasted beets and potato and green bean salad. While we ate, the chef cleaned up her tools and wiped down the kitchen, even drying the inside of the sink with the towels she brought. (The clean dish towels I had hung on the oven just for her were left untouched.) Before bidding adieu, she left us a takeout box filled with chocolate truffles and even took her garbage with her.
The food, though no Michelin-star meal, was still delish. It was balanced, well-cooked, flavorful, and definitely more complex and involved than what I would typically be willing to make on a weeknight. The best part was we didn’t have to lift a finger—and didn’t feel guilty about it at all.
Dinner 2: Monday night
This time, I had to race home to get there before our next chef arrived at 7 p.m. Though a different cook from the first session, it was the same spiel: he brought everything he needed and cooked a full meal in under 30 minutes while I didn’t move from the couch until it was time to eat. This week we chose crispy panko-crusted chicken with tonkatsu sauce, cabbage slaw, and egg-fried rice. Again, it was super yummy—the rice had an unexpected crispiness to it that I liked so much I asked the chef how to make it afterwards. And even though he accidentally left his Ziploc-bag of garbage in the kitchen (the most minimal and contained garbage situation I’ve ever come across), there were no hard feelings because he did graciously wash the handful of dishes that we had left in the sink.
The verdict? Sold. I only wish they were more widely available so that I could gift it around to friends who aren’t based in the Big Apple. But for those who are, this just may be my new go-to present.
If you're interested in checking it our yourself, use code instyle2016 to get your first meal for free! Offer expires 2/15/2016.