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Make and Take


Liz Johnson
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I wrote an article about this new concept this week.

Once there was Shake 'N Bake. Now there's make-and-take — the latest leg-up for getting a family dinner on the table fast. But unlike Shake 'N Bake, a shortcut that comes in a box, here you make it — and box it up — yourself.

"Make-and-take" means someone else plans the meal, does the shopping, chops the vegetables and measures the spices. All you do is whip the ingredients into dinner — or up to eight dinners — that serve four to six people each.

The catch? You have to go to a store to do it.

Here's a link to the article: Make and Take

Has anyone else done or seen this? Opinions?

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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I can't say I fully get the concept... is the prepwork for cooking that much a pain? When you add in the time it would take to drive out to this place, or stop off on your way home from work, I can't see it saving much if any time over dropping by the grocery store and doing the prep yourself.

Also, it seems a bit cost prohibitive. Instead of paying $6.50 per serving for one of these places you could spend a lot less buying the same ingredients yourself, and most likely have enough left over to hire a maid service to come in and clean your kitchen for you if that is a big issue.

Plus, with everything already measured out and etc how do you tailor dishes to personal tastes? What if you think it perhaps needs a little more cadamom or a extra onion? From the way the article explains it it sounds like you pretty much just have to make it how it was prepped, that sounds incredibly limiting to me.

Now, a concept I might find fun, and would be willing to pay for:

A full-out restaurant style kitchen, fully loaded with the cool equipment, ranges, knives, professional pots and pans, etc, and with walk-ins similarly loaded with fresh produce, variety of meats and cheese, and lots of different spices/herb/etc. They could just sell time in the kitchen, you pay for the time you use, and maybe a per lb fee on the foodstuffs you use. Now that I could see being pretty cool.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I think you're underestimating the fear and dread that noncooks hold for the prepping process. Their knife skills suck, they don't understand how to weigh and measure - heck, they sometimes can't even decide what to make in the first place.

It would take them longer to do the prep and shopping themselves than picking something up.

As a part-time cooking teacher and longtime prep assistant at a cooking school, I can pretty guarantee 2or 3 people in a class will say "can you guys come home and prep for me?"

I don't get it. I love to prep - for me it's all part of the zen of cooking, but for many people, cooking isn't about the process - they just want to get the food on the table. But I suspect that places like those in the article aren't targeted at you and me.

If people loved to prep and had the time to do it, Rachel Ray would be out of a job.

Just my 2 cents.

Stephanie Kay

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In the age of cookie cutter houses with cookie cutter kitchens designed by people who don't cook often (show me a cookie cutter designer who cooks and I'll show you...) it's no wonder people prefer to cook in a well-designed, partially well-appointed kitchen with adequate counter space.

My old apartment, and the house I'm currently in are horrible. Not bad, not annoying, but horribly, horribly, intolerably bad. I wouldn't mind having kitchen area that I could rent by the foot/hour, myself. But, using their recipes and food... eah, not so much.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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We had one of these open out in far west Houston sometime last year, I think. Think mega-sprawl cookie cutter neighborhoods full of ladies that spend a lot of time hauling kids around and not much time to think about actually cooking. The place is infested with mini-vans. :biggrin: There was a lot of press about it and it made a big splash.

In addition to what SKinCA said . . . From some of the interviews and feedback, I got the impression that it was as much an excuse for mom to get away for a while as anything else.

I haven't heard any more about it and haven't a clue as to how successful it was.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I have a friend who did this to put a stock of meals away prior to her baby being born - really good idea, I thought.

Personally, I think the whole concept is brilliant. Every time I hear about it I think I need to check out franchising opportunities. I'm about due for a career change.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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There is a company here in Seattle who tried this concept and got it horribly wrong. They charged for the time you spent in the kitchen (they viewed it more as "Entertainment", where you pay to go cook/play in a professional kitchen), and you cooked their recipes to be frozen for other people to purchase. Then, if you wanted to take food home, you had to pay for previously frozen meals, which had been prepared by other suckers, er..clients.

I remember going in there to investigate, and just not understanding the concept "I have to Pay to make the food -in essence, pay to be Your labor, then I have to Pay to take food home that some other, unknown person off the street made?" They said Yes, with straight faces, and I nearly fell on the floor, I was laughing so hard. My friend had to haul me out of there.

Needless to say, this concept bombed, and now their "Chefs" simply prepare "Gourmet" frozen meals that you just flat out purchase.

Hopefully, others will get this concept right from the beginning...

Edited by lala (log)

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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A friend of mine sent me the link to dream dinners because she thought it would be a perfect for me to start something like this where I live.

I think its a fab idea, although I wouldnt like it because I love to cook. However, I could totally see people who really didnt enjoy cooking going for something like that. I believe they also push the "social aspect" of it too. Bring a bunch of girlfriends and gab away while making take and bake dinners.

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I can't say I fully get the concept... is the prepwork for cooking that much a pain?  When you add in the time it would take to drive out to this place, or stop off on your way home from work, I can't see it saving much if any time over dropping by the grocery store and doing the prep yourself. 

I think what SK says below is the key to this. People are afraid of cooking.

I think you're underestimating the fear and dread that noncooks hold for the prepping process. Their knife skills suck, they don't understand how to weigh and measure - heck, they sometimes can't even decide what to make in the first place.

A friend of mine sent me the link to dream dinners because she thought it would be a perfect for me to start something like this where I live.

I think its a fab idea, although I wouldnt like it because I love to cook.  However, I could totally see people who really didnt enjoy cooking going for something like that.    I believe they also push the "social aspect" of it too.  Bring a bunch of girlfriends and gab away while making take and bake dinners.

This is right on. It's not for people who like to cook. And for the first time, people go together either because they're nervous or because they want to make it social. But afterward, they realize that they can get in-and-out a lot faster without gabbing with their friends, and they start to do it alone.

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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I can't say I fully get the concept... is the prepwork for cooking that much a pain?  When you add in the time it would take to drive out to this place, or stop off on your way home from work, I can't see it saving much if any time over dropping by the grocery store and doing the prep yourself. 

I like cooking dinner in my own kitchen, including the prep work. It's really small and has crappy rental apartment applicances, but I have nice sharp knives and big cutting boards. Stuff is stored in a logical fashion and within easy reach for actual cooking. Cooking in my mom's kitchen or my MIL's kitchen completely and totally sucks though. The cutting boards are about the size of decorative cheese boards, and they own really, really bad knives (Ginsu anyone?). I HATE helping them cook because it's so awkward and it takes so long. I don't think my mother or my MIL have even replaced the vegetable peelers in 20 years or so. So yeah, I can imagine people are willing to pay for someone else to do the prep work.

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Laundromats caught on.

:laugh:

I hadn't thought about that. My editor compared it to the build-a-bear stores... it's *like* you're making it yourself, but you're really not.

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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Hi Liz,

I read the article in the paper yesterday, and I don't understand something--you mix up the food there and then take it home to cook? Is it just an entree, are there sides? Ok, more than one thing I don't understand.

It seems that if this is popular enough, I'd open one rather than use one.

Angela

"I'm not looking at the panties, I'm looking at the vegetables!" --RJZ
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Hi Angela,

Thanks for reading!

Yes, you make it up there and then take it home to freeze, then cook. (You could also cook one that night without freezing it.) And it's only an entree. You stick a little label on top of the carton that has cooking instructions, and this label also offers advice for sides: ie, salad, green beans, potatoes, etc.

Liz

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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This is quite common in London. There are stands in the train stations, where you can buy various dinners in a bag on your way to the platforms. Veggies all chopped up and ready to go so you can have dinner on the table in just a few minutes. It's not for me but I can see the appeal.

Imagine if you're a busy parent and want to serve your kids something better than takeaway but don't have the time or inclination to cook? Or a couple who get home too late and tired to cook every night? If you can afford it, why not?

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This is quite common in London. There are stands in the train stations, where you can buy various dinners in a bag on your way to the platforms. Veggies all chopped up and ready to go so you can have dinner on the table in just a few minutes. It's not for me but I can see the appeal.

Imagine if you're a busy parent and want to serve your kids something better than takeaway but don't have the time or inclination to cook? Or a couple who get home too late and tired to cook every night? If you can afford it, why not?

That is just freakin' brilliant. What a marketing concept! Bringing the product to the customer instead of the customer having to go to a shop to get this. Granted, it isn't my cup of tea but I am in the minority when it comes to cooking and I don't have a mass transit system. But, if I did, and an entrepreneur was selling stock in such a venture, I would buy in.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Hi Angela,

Thanks for reading!

Yes, you make it up there and then take it home to freeze, then cook. (You could also cook one that night without freezing it.) And it's only an entree. You stick a little label on top of the carton that has cooking instructions, and this label also offers advice for sides: ie, salad, green beans, potatoes, etc.

Liz

And so the act of putting the already-prepped food in a box yourself, rather than picking up a box someone else has already put the already-prepped food into, makes the customer "feel good"? As if they've actually done something? :blink:

This is amazing. Where do I sign up to open my own franchise?

Angela

"I'm not looking at the panties, I'm looking at the vegetables!" --RJZ
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Hi Angela,

Thanks for reading!

Yes, you make it up there and then take it home to freeze, then cook. (You could also cook one that night without freezing it.) And it's only an entree. You stick a little label on top of the carton that has cooking instructions, and this label also offers advice for sides: ie, salad, green beans, potatoes, etc.

Liz

And so the act of putting the already-prepped food in a box yourself, rather than picking up a box someone else has already put the already-prepped food into, makes the customer "feel good"? As if they've actually done something? :blink:

This is amazing. Where do I sign up to open my own franchise?

Angela

A friend of mine is doing a "dreamdinners" franchise in Pasadena, CA which opens this month. You can contact the company about their franchises...check it out at www.dreamdinners.com.

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I wrote an article about this new concept this week.

Has anyone else done or seen this? Opinions?

Great piece, Liz. About a month ago a friend of mine who lives in the Bay Area sent me a link to Dream Dinners. I thought it looked interesting, but kind of dismissed it as "who would do this?" (Loved your point about seasoned cooks not finding some of the bowls big enough, etc. Terrific!) It appears that these are popping up all over the place.

I'm considering a session just so I can say I did it, even though it's kind of expensive and I hate having to make appointments. I'm very interested in where the food is coming from that is being used, who is developing/testing recipes, who is "supervising," etc. Who knows, instead of the cooking school I wanted to open, maybe I could do this ....

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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One of these business has been in existence here for about a year, and it appears to be doing well:

Simple Suppers to Go

My husband and I tried it during their first month. I wanted to get some ideas, and I did get some!

I found that we really didn't like some of her "casserole" type recipes, such as stacked enchiladas, manicotti, etc., but some of the meats, such as salmon and chicken, were really very good. That first time, we made one of everything offered. If we were to do it again, we'd be more selective about which entrees we make. But my husband and I really enjoyed working together on these meals. (The chef did mention that we work together better than most couples.) It was a relaxed setting and allowed us to talk and interact without having to step around each other to get stuff into a pan, etc., which usually is the case if we're cooking together. And I came away with ideas about how to do my own make-ahead dishes with my own recipes.

Per-serving cost for this particular service is about $3.00.

I like to do prep, but my working hours are a little late sometimes, and it's lovely to just come home, preheat the oven, stick the entree in, and start working on side dishes. Not only is the prep for the main dish done, the cleanup is done also, and that helps. I still have to do some prep and cleanup for the vegetables (but maybe not, if I did the prep the night before), but it just reduces dinner from a major hassle to something definitely doable. My job is fairly high stress, and I often don't have a lot of energy when I get home.

I've referred several friends to this service, and they've actually called me back to thank me. One is a single father who's raising two adolescents, and he has no cooking skills, and only limited time to develop them. He uses the option of having the chef prepare everything for him, and just picks up the finished meals. The quality is much better than frozen dinners from the grocery, and so is the selection, since the menu changes from month to month.

I definitely think there's a market for these businesses. More people love to eat good food, than have the ability to cook it. And therein lies the market.

Edited by jgm (log)
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I'm always amazed at the things people come up with. For less experienced cooks, people without cooking utensils or area, or people very short on time, this idea seems like it would have merit. It takes care of the planning part of meal preparation.

For me, the planning is the crucial part. I, too, want dinner in a flash when I come home (it's the time I'm most susceptible to grazing because I'm HUNGRY!), but I accomplish this by making things ahead. I do desserts and breads on the weekend, along with soups, stews, sauces...anything that benefits by keeping for a day or two. Lots of things, I take to the almost done stage and then store it. I just raise the dough, prep the veg and simmer the sauces in between other weekend chores.

I prep salad greens and veg a day or two in advance. Then, when I come home, I just put it together and pop it in the oven or slide it onto the cooktop. While THAT is cooking, I usually do something for the NEXT night's meal.

At least as important as good food are flexibility and spontaniety, so I allow for last minute changes in plans, like if we decide to go out for dinner. Also I often have meals ready that I can drop off at the house where my law student son lives with four other young men.

I love to cook, but the romance dims when I'm starving, my husband is starving, the light's fading on any outdoor activity, and dinner's still an hour away. This pre-made dinner idea would be a good solution, but I like to use my own recipes and kitchen.

Catherine

Edited by Peachpie9 (log)
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Great piece, Liz. 

Thank you!

and I hate having to make appointments.

I neglected to mention in the article that they do "walk-in Wednesdays" from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

I'm very interested in where the food is coming from that is being used, 

I think people in Westchester are aware of such things. After all, it's right near an organic grocer.

  The quality is much better than frozen dinners from the grocery, and so is the selection, since the menu changes from month to month.

This is key. IMO, this is why these places will work. It's better than the frozen food from the grocery.

  And I came away with ideas about how to do my own make-ahead dishes with my own recipes. 

:wink:

but I accomplish this by making things ahead.  I do desserts and breads on the weekend, along with soups, stews, sauces...anything that benefits by keeping for a day or two.  Lots of things, I take to the almost done stage and then store it.  I just raise the dough, prep the veg and simmer the sauces in between other weekend chores.  ...  I like to use my own recipes and kitchen. 

Catherine

:wink: :wink:

Edited by Liz Johnson (log)

Liz Johnson

Professional:

Food Editor, The Journal News and LoHud.com

Westchester, Rockland and Putnam: The Lower Hudson Valley.

Small Bites, a LoHud culinary blog

Personal:

Sour Cherry Farm.

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And so the act of putting the already-prepped food in a box yourself, rather than picking up a box someone else has already put the already-prepped food into, makes the customer "feel good"?  As if they've actually done something?  :blink:

This is amazing.  Where do I sign up to open my own franchise?

Angela

When cake mixes were first developed in the 1940s, they contained powdered egg whites so the cook didn't have to add anything but water. People hated them! They wanted to add their own "fresh" ingredients to feel like they made something.

So I can see how people might feel better putting the ingredients together themselves, and seeing everything that goes into the dish, rather than just purchasing a ready-made entree.

Liz, that was a terrific article! I don't think it is a service I would use now, but I would have used it back when my husband and I both had 50+ hour a week jobs. Back then I knew a woman who made homemade soup one day a week and sold it to the neighborhood, I lived for that one day each week because on other weeknights we often ate take-out food because we were both too tired to cook anything.

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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There is a company here in Seattle who tried this concept and got it horribly wrong. They charged for the time you spent in the kitchen (they viewed it more as "Entertainment", where you pay to go cook/play in a professional kitchen), and you cooked their recipes to be frozen for other people to purchase. Then, if you wanted to take food home, you had to pay for previously frozen meals, which had been prepared by other suckers, er..clients.

I remember going in there to investigate, and just not understanding the concept "I have to Pay to make the food -in essence, pay to be Your labor, then I have to Pay to take food home that some other, unknown person off the street made?" They said Yes, with straight faces, and I nearly fell on the floor, I was laughing so hard. My friend had to haul me out of there.

Needless to say, this concept bombed, and now their "Chefs" simply prepare "Gourmet" frozen meals that you just flat out purchase.

Hopefully, others will get this concept right from the beginning...

That is the weirdest concept I have ever heard of. You pay someone to cook food, but then you can't take home what you've cooked, you have to pay again to take home someone else's food? WTF? That makes NO sense. How long did that last before they switched to the other concept? Did anyone actually pay them to participate in that scheme?

Speaking of "playing" in professional kitchens, I took a cooking class through our university continuing ed program that had a great concept, and I'm going to take it again as soon as I can. It was held in the professional kitchen of a local catering company. The instructors (the chefs that owned the catering company) had bought a whole bunch of cool, interesting ingredients - black rice, celeriac, bulgur, etc. i.e., stuff that most people wouldn't usually go out of their way to buy. The kitchen was also fully stocked with "staple" ingredients and fresh herbs, and we each had two raw chicken breasts to use. The whole class was this: choose a few ingredients, come up with a dish to make in less than 10 minutes, then use the rest of the class time and make it. It was totally free-form. The instructors didn't do any demonstration and they didn't pass out recipes. They just walked around and helped people with cooking techniques and ideas, but if you asked them a question, they'd ask you what you thought before they would give you a suggestion. At the end, people had come up with some really tasty, innovative dishes, and we all had a fabulous time. It was loads of fun to get to "play" in the professional kitchen with the professional equipment, and I learned a lot too.

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There is a company here in Seattle who tried this concept and got it horribly wrong. They charged for the time you spent in the kitchen (they viewed it more as "Entertainment", where you pay to go cook/play in a professional kitchen), and you cooked their recipes to be frozen for other people to purchase. Then, if you wanted to take food home, you had to pay for previously frozen meals, which had been prepared by other suckers, er..clients.

I remember going in there to investigate, and just not understanding the concept "I have to Pay to make the food -in essence, pay to be Your labor, then I have to Pay to take food home that some other, unknown person off the street made?" They said Yes, with straight faces, and I nearly fell on the floor, I was laughing so hard. My friend had to haul me out of there.

Needless to say, this concept bombed, and now their "Chefs" simply prepare "Gourmet" frozen meals that you just flat out purchase.

Hopefully, others will get this concept right from the beginning...

That is the weirdest concept I have ever heard of. You pay someone to cook food, but then you can't take home what you've cooked, you have to pay again to take home someone else's food? WTF? That makes NO sense. How long did that last before they switched to the other concept? Did anyone actually pay them to participate in that scheme?

That incarnation lasted for about 5 months, much longer than I thought it would. Guess they got a few suckers, until the suckers figured it out! I wish I'd kept the brochure, it was so funny...

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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