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When you think of a meal delivery plan, you probably think of the usual: a delivery service that brings your meals in plastic containers. Well, now you have a personal chef at your beck and call, so long as you announce it by 3pm-and you can announce it up to a week in advance, if you want to be certain. Meet Kitchensurfing, your new favorite meal program. It is not a meal delivery program, exactly-at least not the type you usually think of. Think of it as personalized catering. And gratuity is included in the price you have to pay.

If this sounds like the type of program you'd be interested in, read on to find out what makes this program unique-what makes it different from all the other ones. There is certainly credit to be given for offering such useful services and standing out so drastically from the competition.

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The Good

  • Personalized menus
  • Discounts
  • Booking

Kitchensurfing offers food services unlike any other company. They have personalized menus, designed by their chefs and updated daily. It is not quite a catering company, because it is oriented mostly toward families and groups that consist of two to six guests. They have options that suit even those on diets.

When the chef arrives, you don't have to be home so long as you leave a key for the chef or have the doorman let the chef in. However, for the chef to begin cooking, you have to be home, mainly due to liability purposes. The chefs undergo extreme processes, between their background checks, taste tests, Kitchensurfing coaching, and special instructions based on each day's menu choices.

Some of the recent meals they've featured include:

  • Korean-style steak with sesame-daikon slaw
  • Basil and garlic-roasted chicken with caramelized cauliflower
  • Fish tacos with homemade guacamole, pico de gallo and chipotle mayo
  • Black bean burgers with pomegranate barbecue sauce and adobo corn chowder.

Options do change daily, though, so these are simply recipes that have been used before.

The price that you pay upfront is all-inclusive-it costs $25 per person, but that price includes gratuity, labor, travel as well as the ingredients needed in order to cook the meal. They come to your house, cook the meal for you, and afterward, they serve you and pick up the food. Since the biggest group can consist of six people, you will never pay more than $150 for the entire evening, which could be compared to restaurant prices... except it's from the comfort of your own home.

If you refer a friend, Kitchensurfing will offer discounts to both you and your friend. They will receive $25 in credit, which will be discounted off of their first dinner, and they will also give you discounts for every friend that you refer. This is great, because it means that spreading the word about such a unique service will benefit you, too. Who doesn't like discounts?

You can book up to a week in advance, but if it is a last-minute arrangement, you can book on the same day, so long as you've booked by 3pm. They provide their services every hour from 6 to 9 each evening. They come for approximately thirty minutes, offering servings for children as well.

The Bad

  • Food delivery
  • Substitutions
  • Group size

Like any program, there are many unpleasant implications that come along with Kitchensurfing. It is important that you are clear, first and foremost, on the fact that this program is unlike most programs that offer meal plans. They do not deliver food. This is unpleasant for those looking to enjoy simple meals; it is for those looking to have a special homemade meal, made on the spot, but by someone else.

Chefs have been trained to make the meals that are already on their menus, so they normally do not cater to particular needs. They do not make substitutions, but they might consider eliminating certain elements while cooking your dinner. This would have to be arranged with the chef prior to cooking, and isn't always guaranteed, as they specialize in the options that are already there. In a given night, they are only allowed to make one type of dish.

If you suffer from allergies or have special nutritional needs, Kitchensurfing does not offer alternatives. They do give customers a list of all of the ingredients they use, so if you know that you are allergic to an ingredient, you will be aware that it is included. They also cannot guarantee that the prepped ingredients haven't been contaminated by other foods, as they are all prepped at a central commissary.

For those wondering how to book weeknight dinners, the website states that same-day dinners are currently only available in Manhattan below 116th street. This is unfortunate for those living in the other cities providing Kitchensurfing services, which include Seattle, Boston, New York, Chicago, Hamptons, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

Although they are available on weekdays, they are not open on major U.S. holidays and on certain religious holidays. This should not be a major issue, since the service caters specifically to family-sized groups and not to large parties.

Since they only serve up to six people and have several homes to attend to each night, customers cannot make changes to the times in which their reservations will be taking place. Because of the service's demand, they also cannot send more than one chef to a particular household on any given night.

Despite the fact they bring the cooking equipment that they will need, you need to be able to offer a stove and oven, allowing them to use a clean sink and counter space as well. They may ask to borrow a pot if you ordered a pasta dish. Alcohol and beverages are not offered either.

In terms of their cancellation policy, reservations are strictly non-refundable and non-transferrable, so you cannot get company credit for the money lost nor get money back.

The Bottom Line

Kitchensurfing is a different type of food service. This is simply like having a personal chef in your home for a night, at a better price that you would pay for a night out on the town. Despite the fact that they don't provide alcohol nor serve larger parties, they can provide a romantic meal for two from the comfort of your own kitchen and they can contribute to small family gatherings. It is a small party in your own living room, and they reward you for allowing your friends to try this program out. It doesn't get much better than a home-cooked meal, all expenses covered, while you sit and watch them cook, serve and then clean up. In and out in thirty minutes, as the website states. This company isn't recommended if you are expecting a simple delivery of a home-cooked meal-because they deliver well, but on performance, as they cook right in front of your eyes.

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