7/16/2013 04:30:00 PM

Two New Services Bring Chefs to Your Kitchen

To cook or be cooked for: that's the question two new start-ups are posing to eaters. Plated wants to do the grocery shopping and the prep work for a gourmet made-at-home dinner, while Kitchensurfing would rather call in its chef friends to transform home kitchens into a pop-up restaurants. Both services are now available in Chicago, so what will it be?

Plated is a New York-based company that expanded to Chicago earlier this month. The idea is simple: the ingredients for a chef-designed meal are delivered to the diner’s door with idiot-proof instructions. Plated allows diners to choose from several different plates (minimum of four and maximum of 10 at $10-$15 per plate or $10-$12 for members). Orders are placed one week in advance and shipped in insulated packaging.

The recipes come from trusted chefs around the country, food writers and television personalities. Want Jason Roberts’ (The Chew) chilled buckwheat noodles with seared salmon and toasted nori. No problem? The fish, noodles, nori, seasonings and spices all arrive in a bag, are already measured and ready to cook. In the mood for Gabe Thompson’s (L'Apicio) grilled flank steak with horseradish cream, potatoes and mint pesto? The only things the diner needs are a food processor and a grill pan, and it’s done.

The instructions are precise, and easy-to-read on heavy cards that include pictures and helpful tips. Overall, Plated is not just a shortcut to dinner, but a way to explore new dishes without restocking an entire pantry. Really, how often are you going to use that package of nori? If you like the recipe, keep the card and make it again. The only downside is that each plate serves two; so single diners should prepare for leftovers or cut the recipes in half.

Rather let someone else do the cooking? Say hello to Kitchensurfing, a Brooklyn-based company that launched in March 2012 and expanded to Chicago this month. They'll help customers that want to host a special dinner, whether it's an intimate gathering, backyard BBQ or cocktail party, but don't want to cook. Kitchensurfing has a network of chefs with different areas of expertise and price ranges that will cater the event.

Find the perfect chef by filling out a match request form, selecting a culinary category such as “Sunday Brunch” or Umami All Around,” or browsing the directory of locally available chefs. Chefs include Thomas Leavitt from White Oak Gourmet, Marianne Sundquist from Mess Hall & Co., and David Ochs who worked alongside Stephanie Izard, Jose Garces, Mindy Segal and Carrie Nahabedian. Hourly rates for the chefs range from $25 to $200, include food and are paid for in advance. Each menu is designed to the diner’s specification, and is prepared, served and cleaned up by the chef.

VoilĂ . Dinner is served.

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