Free Press Journal

iChef: Delivering a ‘meal kit’ to your doorsteps


Arabic Fattoush Salad with Feta Cheese

This ‘gourmet meal’ is just a call away. When you are occupied, left with no energy or crave healthy yet delicious food, iChef is the place to look forward to, writes Shikha Jain

Either you are an amateur or expert, iChef transforms your worries into excitement. An inspired-concept of delivering a ‘meal kit’ to your doorsteps has tasted 3 years of success.

Why the name ‘iChef’?

Vishal Shah, Founder & CEO of iChef, an avid foodie says, “iChef revolves around empowering the customer/user with all that is necessary from turning a kitchen zero into hero. By providing exactly measured and neatly-labelled ingredients and step-by-step instructions anyone from a kitchen novice to an experienced cook can create a restaurant-quality meal from scratch. We wanted to keep the brand name simple and easy to recall and something that easily translates the concept into a visual – especially given the newness of the concept in the Indian context”.

Gourmet Cheese Platter

The thought that lead to its origin

iChef is a result of the convergence of several experiences he has had over the last decade or so during his life as an investment banker working in New York and London. New York is arguably one of the best cities to experience the diversity of world cuisines being served at hole-in-the wall joints all the way to coveted Michelin-star restaurants. Combine this with the opportunity to taste authentic, local cuisines during my travels, the foodie in him had developed a strong fancy to create a platform for people to experience heterogeneity of food of the world. Living the fast-paced Manhattan lifestyle, his wife and he would often crave for a home-cooked meal, which would be fresh, healthy and easy while recreating the look, taste and feel of a restaurant dish.

Spicy Malaysian Tofu Laksa

However, they regularly experienced frustration to cook for just the two of them and be left behind with either extra food ingredients or cooked food – both of which would go waste. Often, they would get a box of mascarpone cheese or a bottle of sherry vinegar and wouldn’t know what to do with the excess after using the 2 tbsp that the recipe recommended. And that’s how the thought of providing exactly-measured ingredients was conceived, where one could make cooking a fun experience without having to worry about the boring legwork of recipe planning, grocery shopping and measuring ingredients. Along with neatly-labelled and pre-portioned ingredients, iChef also provides step-by-step recipe cards with easy-to-follow illustrations and instructions to cook gourmet dishes from around the world in the convenience of your home kitchen without having to worry about food wastage or greasy take out options.


Quality remains the same

Since the cooking will be done by the recipient, there could be a possibility of difference in taste. But he assured us by saying, we go to great lengths to conduct recipe trials and finalise recipes by giving detailed instructions assuming that it will be an amateur cook who will be using the service. We highlight the ease of cooking level across all our recipes so that customers attempt recipes depending upon their kitchen skills, although most of our recipes are very easy for novice cooks. Pre-identifying what they would need in terms of pots and pans prepares them beforehand and eliminates any chance of confusion during cooking. The sauce, or rather the secret sauce, of the recipe, is done in-house at our end and that primarily drives the taste profile of the dish so we ensure that we can control that at our end and are able to achieve the same outcome that we could achieve in our test kitchens.

How does it work?

They have an in-house team of chefs who they work very closely with to come up with new recipe and conduct food trials before they finalise a recipe and decide to put it on the menu. Meals are selected based on foods and ingredients that are seasonal and in trend, recipes that are healthy to eat; easy to cook and often include ingredients that may not be easily available in the local market. From time to time, they also work with a panel of hand-picked chefs who have several years of experience both internationally and in India for recipe development. Their central kitchen is in Bandra East.

Penne in Pistachio Pesto

On asking what message would he want to convey, he said, while making cooking fast, fun and easy, is a convenience we would like to offer our customers along with access to fresh produce – we really aim to create an incredible experience around cooking. We feel that people today are disconnected with the joy of sitting around a table and sharing an amazing experience with those they love the most. And by taking the guesswork out of the process, we make gourmet cooking surprisingly simple!