A food box that enables you to recreate dishes from some of the best Dutch chefs at home!
As we didn’t have any specific plans for New Year’s Eve and Koen and Erica would be returning from their Christmas break that same afternoon, we thought it would be a lovely occasion to get together for a final 2019 cookout. However, with their plane landing only around 4.30 pm, the timing would be too short to conduct a proper cookout and prepare everything from scratch. Therefore, I suggested ordering the new Cook Like a Chef food box which I had read about a couple of weeks earlier. The fact that the included courses were from different Dutch Michelin starred restaurants was met with great enthusiasm.
About the Cook Like a Chef food box:
The concept of Cook Like A Chef is to make a food box available so you can recreate dishes from some of the best Dutch restaurants at home and put a course on the table in just 20 minutes. With all the prep work already done by the restaurants, you really only need to finish, assemble, and plate the various dishes.
The currently participating restaurants are De Librije***, De Leest***, Parkheuvel**, and De Lindehof**, and the food boxes will be rotating every ten weeks in the beforementioned order. The regular 4-course menu is €69,50 and is to be ordered for 2 persons or more. Vegetarian, gluten-free, and lactose-free menus are also available, as are wine pairing options. There are sets of 4 bottles, both in a regular and a more high-end choice, but the wines can also be ordered individually per bottle. Gins and Fruits de Mer chocolate can be added as well.
The more festive December / Christmas edition of the food box that we had, was a mix of signature dishes from De Librije, Parkheuvel, and De Lindehof and it set us back €79,50 per person (4 regular and 1 vegetarian). No wine pairings were ordered, as we decided to pick some (similar) wines from our own wine cellars instead.
The (conditioned) delivery is available for the Netherlands and a small part of Belgium (Flanders up to and including Antwerp). The deliveries are made only on Fridays, Saturdays and the days before public holidays. The delivery fee is €15,50 for orders up to 4 persons and €24,75 for 4 or more. If you really want to recreate the full restaurant experience at home and excuse yourself from kitchen duty, you can even hire a professional chef to do everything for you.
What is in the Cook Like a Chef food box:
I ordered the food boxes to arrive on the day before New Year’s Eve (on the day itself was also possible, but I just wanted to be on the safe side). The delivery truck from Schmidt Zeevis, a renowned fishmonger from Rotterdam, handed over 2 cardboard boxes, with explicit instructions on the outside stating which ingredients should be placed in the freezer immediately. The various courses came in separate brown paper bags, with all elements prepped and pre-portioned: single-use piping bags for the crèmes, vacuum-sealed fish and meat, and the rest in (reusable) plastic containers. The vegetarian ingredients were labeled accordingly when they resembled their non-vegetarian counterparts. The boxes also contained printed menu cards, postcards depicting the ingredients for each of the courses, and 1-page leaflets clearly indicating each of the prep and plating steps.
Our experiences with the Cook Like a Chef food box:
They certainly delivered on their statement that preparing the dishes would be super simple and that no culinary skills or fancy kitchen equipment are needed. An oven, a stove, a grater, and a stick blender is all that we needed. Grating some lime zest, heating ingredients on the stove and in the oven, putting the stick blender into the lobster sauce to make it foamy, boiling ravioli, and frying the langoustines and the quail roulades were about as cheffy as it would get. The only ingredients you need to add yourself are some butter for cooking the quail and some salt for the last-minute marinade salmon trout.
The indicated overall timing is accurate; we had 1 person cooking, and 2 doing the assembly and plating, and we could put all the courses on the table within 20 minutes. It should be noted that, especially when ordering both the regular and the vegetarian food boxes, you will have to do some washing up in between courses as 3 to 5 different pots and pans are needed for each of the warm courses. As always, with cooking, common sense is needed rather than blindly following the instructions, especially if the ingredients come straight from your fridge. For example, the quail rouleaus were precooked sous vide but did need quite some time in the pan to heat through and through. Similarly, the indicated times that the vegetarian aubergine tartelette and the cauliflower heart had to be in the oven (the instructions called for 10 and 5-6 minutes at 160℃, respectively) were way too short.
Each course and its presentation had its different character, reflecting the chefs. It even was noticeable in the instructions which lead to some banter in the kitchen come to the main course as to how one “playfully” puts ingredients on a plate (yes, a lot of wine had already been consumed by then…). Videos for the plating suggestions are also available on Youtube, but we winged it based on the pictures on the instruction leaflets, in which it is was indicated that some of the quantities of sauces and crèmes would be more than strictly necessary for proper plating. The good old “Less is More” fine dining mantra. We did not use full restraint and tried to use up the ingredients if it meant putting a few extra blobs of delicious crèmes or sauces on the plates. We were still quite content with the result of our plating efforts.
The quality of the ingredients was outstanding, and, most importantly, all the dishes tasted brilliantly (Chantal was so kind as to let me try her vegetarian ones). Compared to home cooking, professional chefs tend to use (much) more salt to amp up the flavors. Hence, we found that none of the dishes needed additional seasoning. We found that the chicken ravioli on their own were borderline overseasoned, but still agreeable when combined with the other elements on the plate.
Any downsides? Yes, but a few minor ones. Unfortunately, some of the quantities of the ingredients were 1 or 2 short (the pumpkin slices for the first course and the cinnamon stick mousse for the dessert). Furthermore, given the replacement ingredients for the Vegetarian menu (quinoa salad and the stalk of a cauliflower), one could argue that a slightly lower price tag is warranted.
Nevertheless, the portions themselves are generous; definitely more substantial than as part of a menu in one of these restaurants. Therefore, after finishing the 4 courses — served over 3½ hours — we were replete and delighted that the Cook like a Chef food box turned out to be a splendid way to say farewell to 2019!
- 1st course: De Librije*** (Jonnie Boer):
- Raw Marinated Salmon Trout, Pickled Pumpkin, Almond Sherry Sauce, Lemon crème, Lovage crème, and Lovage oil.
- Vegetarian: Same as ours, but a Sweet and Sour Quinoa salad replaced the fish
- 2015 Branco de Santa Cruz by Telmo Rodriguez (Valdeorras, Galicia, Spain)
- 2nd course: Parkheuvel** (Erik van Loo):
- Bresse Chicken Ravioli, Langoustines, Mushrooms, and Mushroom Jus, and Lobster Bisque
- Vegetarian: Eggplant Tartlette, Beurre Blanc of fermented Bell Pepper juice, Garlic and Curry Crème, Balsamic Onions, and kimchi
- 2018 Marsanne Les Vignes d’à Côté by Domaine Yves Cuilleron (Côtes du Rhone, France)
- Main course: De Lindehof** (Soenil Bahadoer):
- Quail Roulade and Quail leg in Jus, Surinam potpourri, Pointed Cabbage Rendang, Broad Beans and Carrots
- Vegetarian: Roasted Cauliflower Heart, Cauliflower Crème, Baharat Crème, Pickled Onions Tempura chips, Raisin and Macadamia Vinaigrette
- 2006 The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon by d’Arenberg (McLaren Vale, Australia)
- 2008 Brunello di Montalcino by Col D’Orcia (Tuscany, Italy)
- Dessert: De Librije*** (Jonnie Boer)
- Deconstructed Apple Pie (Apple, Crumble, Star Anise Chocolates, Cinnamon Stick Mousse, Vanilla Pod Gel, Brandy soaked Raisins and Vanilla Parfait)
- 2015 Le Doux Secret by Cave de Labastide de Lévis (Gaillac, Marsac Tarn, France)
Of course, we didn’t forget about the kids: they also got to indulge multi-Michelin Starred fare with a generous helping of the Mac ‘n Cheese by Marco Pierre White.