Services like Feastly, Kitchit and EatWith are becoming hip with diners in big cities -- many of the services involve shopping through dining "experiences" online, choosing one and then attending a dinner party of sorts in a chef's house or a separate pop-up space. Other services, meanwhile, allow you to pay a set fare, pick a set menu and have a chef come cook the meal -- gasp! -- IN YOUR HOUSE.
When my roommates and I decided to test out Kitchensurfing, a service whose chefs cook dinners in your kitchen, I must admit we were slightly weirded out. Who is this person? Will he expect us to help cook? Do we talk while he makes the food? What if he needs a special spatula that I don't have?!
Spoiler alert: having a chef come to your house is totally normal.
Here are a few reasons it's worth a try:
1. Chefs need to be background-checked, vetted and professional.
In order to work for Kitchensurfing, chefs must have professional culinary experience and pass a background check, explains Jacqui Perlman, general manager of Kitchensurfing's East Coast region. When our Kitchensurfing chef Samson showed up (right on time!), he was friendly, welcoming and easy to talk to.
2. They're in and out FAST.
In the case of Kitchensurfing's same-day dinners, chefs vow to take no more than 30 minutes to set up, cook and serve your meal. This allows a perfect little window of time for some culinary banter -- but by the time you're ready to eat, your chef will be off to his next client. (Kitchensurfing's same-day dinner service is available only in Manhattan for now -- their offerings in other cities involve a little more prep time.)
3. They'll show you how to hack your kitchen.
Some services provide a list of basic kitchen tools you should have before your chef arrives -- Kitchensurfing chefs bring their own. Either way, watching a whiz work your kitchen will spark ideas you've never had before. Before Samson came over, we never knew our saucepans were capable of sautéing skirt steak or that our oven's broil setting could turn Brussels sprouts so perfectly crispy.
4. And you get to eat restaurant-quality food on your couch.
When you're paying the amount you'd pay in a restaurant ($25 per person for our dinners and much more, in many cases), you can expect nothing less of a fantastic entree from your rented chef. The food we tried was GOOD -- like better-than-anything-we-could-make good. And there's something so utterly satisfying about enjoying it in your PJs on the couch.
5. They're new friends!
By the end of his 30-minute cooking session, Samson felt like a pal. As he cooked, we found out he lives around the corner from us, shops at our grocery store and plays in a band at the local wine bar. My roommate saw him in the checkout line the other day, and they said hi.
Not so scary for a rent-a-chef, huh?