Originally published: Jan 18, 2021
Here are we are then at the conclusion of 2 months of testing food boxes. The two boxes I’ve tested here are from the same company but with different objectives – HelloFresh is supposedly a premium box while Chef’s Plate sells simple and quick dishes. And that’s precisely why I faced the same issues with both the boxes – lack of communication and lack of quality control. I’m not sure about the positioning of these two services though. The dishes that were available on Chef’s plate seemed a bit more substantial than HelloFresh.
I had an inauspicious start with this box. The box was late by a day and I had some issues with my address issues because they organize your account based on your postal code. What I use for my postal code and what their system picks up is different and I had issues in proving who I was when I called to check on my order.
Finally, my order arrived and was outside my door, which I didn’t know because there was no communication from HelloFresh! I’m not sure if I turned off notifications, because I haven’t faced this issue with GoodFood. And then, to my horror, I realized that their ice packs had punctured and had soaked the carpeting of my condo corridor with water. It also meant that, as I carried the leaking box into my apartment, I was spilling the water onto the floors of my apartment. I was just so frustrated with it because I had to clean the entire hallway and floors. And the recipe cards that they provide now look like they’re a sunken pirate’s treasure map – warped.
What I liked about HelloFresh is the vegan and vegetarian options that they provide. They provide the most vegetarian options among the three – HelloFresh, Chef’s Plate and GoodFood. I also liked how the ingredients were packed in individual brown bags and the amount of waste was minimal.
What I didn’t like was their recipe cards. The images in the recipe cards might as well have been omitted. I couldn’t tell the consistency of the beans for the Mexican Bean bowl because the beans were black and so was the pan! I like Chef’s plate’s design better but it’s not the best either.
Also, the ingredients of the various sauces and seasonings were printed in tiny font on the label and the label was used to seal the paper bag. This is so dangerous because I didn’t know if there were any allergens in it because of the way the labels are printed and pasted. I just carelessly ripped the label to open the bag and didn’t bother to read them. Now, I’m not allergic to anything except too much soy, so I could take the risk.
Meal 1 – Warm Mexican Bean Bowl
This was an easy dish to make. They had provided all the ingredients needed. I made a few tweaks like switching the rice for Tortilla chips and mashing the beans so that they’re close in texture to Chipotle’s beans. The result was an amazing meal that you can’t screw up (and trust me, I usually can).
Ingredients in the boxThe final dish
Meal 2 – Italian Mozzarella Panini with Herby Tomato Soup
This was fairly easy to make too once the prep was done. There were several components to this dish that needed to be prepared like draining the roasted peppers, preparing the Mozzarella, etc. While preparing this dish I realized that the shallot and garlic were rotten. I don’t cook often at home, so I don’t keep many of the basic ingredients like shallots, onions or tomatoes at home. When I realized that the shallot was rotten, I had to substitute it with onion powder that I had bought during the first lockdown in March ’20. This a common problem with food boxes, but I’ve never had to throw away an entire vegetable because it was completely rotten. I’ve always been able to salvage parts of it in other food boxes. I had Garlic on hand so that was an easy substitute.
Ingredients in the box
The soup turned out alright. They don’t mention blitzing the soup but you should if you don’t like chunky soup. I’m not a fan of the soup. It wasn’t ground breaking; it wasn’t a tasty pumpkin soup that I’d want to eat. To me, it tasted like a marinara sauce.
The panini was tasty and I’d recommend it. The quality of the ingredients and the combination of pesto, peppers and mozzarella were great and that’s why it was tasty. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of this dish.
Meal 3 – Zucchini and Lemon Linguine with Peas and Pesto
This was the meal I was most excited about. But it didn’t live up to the expectation. It tasted fine but if I’m paying for a food box then I’m looking for something out of the box to come out of the box.
It was easy to prepare this meal. I decided to use the mandolin to slice the Zucchini as opposed to chopping them. Zucchini is a vegetable, if it isn’t prepared well, can end up tasting like a slimy eel.
Zucchini and Lemon Linguine with Peas and Pesto
Continuing with the theme of lack of communication, this box was abandoned somewhere near the concierge desk and I didn’t know that it was delivered till the concierge called me and let me know. I’m not sure when it was left there! Luckily they provide the ice pack with gel and not the water based ice tray that HelloFresh provides.
Many of the issues that I had with HelloFresh continued with Chef’s plate: the lack of communication, the labels and the quality control issues. I again had issues with the way the system picked up my address, which I called to rectify a day before the delivery. Despite calling their customer care center and alerting them about the error, the delivery person called me to say that he couldn’t find my condo.
Chef’s Plate has better recipe cards though. In some of the meals, some components of the dish were more than the others; which you’ll see when you get to the Sloppy Joes and the Flatbread Pizza.
They also had some interesting vegetarian dishes. Not as many as HelloFresh but better than GoodFood. The creativity of the recipes were way better than HelloFresh. At this point, I think they should just merge the two services.
Meal 1 – Smoky Lentil Sloppy Joes
I loved this! Whoever created or thought of this dish deserves a raise. For the hardcore meat eaters out there, this won’t taste like meat. Only meat tastes like meat. But having been raised on equal parts vegetarian and meat dishes, I liked this. This felt totally worth what I was paying for the box.
What was weird was the proportions of the various components of this meal – not enough fries, too much slop (a.k.a. the bean filling) and not enough Joe (a.k.a buns). I apologize for that joke.
For the fries, there were teeny tiny sweet potatoes provided. They are relatively (emphasis on relatively) easier to chop but the amount of chips I got wasn’t enough for 2 people. Here’s a note for all food boxes that provide sweet potatoes for fries – please cut them for us! I’ve hurt myself trying to cut sweet potatoes and yams. This meal was medium in complexity because of the various components of the dish but it was so worth it.
Smoky Lentil Sloppy Joes
Meal 2 – Deluxe Veggie Flatbread Pizza
Loved this too! I made a few tweaks like chopping the vegetables smaller, using the entire garlic clove for the topping and used additional garlic from my pantry for the mayo dip. I also added the Italian seasoning to the topping as opposed to adding it only to the mayo dip.
I faced the same issue as the Sloppy Joes – the proportions were off. I didn’t have enough topping and cheese for two flatbreads, leaving the second one bare.
This was the first pizza with a good amount of topping
The second pizza with less topping
Meal 3 – Japanese Chicken Salad with creamy miso-sesame dressing
This was the one that broke the winning streak. It was a fairly easy dish to make – once the chicken was ready, you just tossed it in with the salad mix. But there was one problem. It came without the Ginger-Sesame spice blend! I reached out to Chef’s Plate and asked if they knew of a way to recreate the spice at home. They were kind enough to provide the list of ingredients in the spice mix to substitute the missing spice. The spice mix required ginger powder, garlic powder and onion powder. If you don’t cook regularly, you either won’t have these ingredients or will have the fresh version of these spices and herbs (technically, vegetables). Luckily, as mentioned before I had the bottle of onion powder that I had bought when the pandemic started. I searched my spice rack and found some garlic plus which I added. For ginger, I just decided to use fresh ginger. I minced fresh asian ginger and added it to the spice mix. Luckily, it worked. I’m not sure if it was meant to taste that way, but it tasted good.
Japanese Chicken Salad with creamy miso-sesame dressing
Summary of all the boxes:
A summary of all the food boxes. I rated each parameter on a scale of 10 and the maximum score any box could achieve is 50.
|Food Box||Good Food||Hello Fresh||Chef’s Plate|
|Communication & Shipping||8||2||2|
|Packaging & Recipe Card design||8||4||6|
|Creativity of the dishes||7||4||8|
|Value For Money||6||4||8|
- Communication and Shipping: GoodFood spoiled me for other boxes. They would send constant text messages and email confirmation letting me know when my box would get to me. I knew, to the minute, when my box would arrive. This is really helpful if you don’t have a concierge. This is where HelloFresh and Chef’s Plate lost out.
- Design of recipe cards: GoodFood had the best designed recipe cards. While they used black pans in the for cooking dark colored ingredients, they use close ups so that we know what the food should look like. Chef’s plate came in second because their images were clearer than HelloFresh. It wasn’t ideal because they were using over head shots for tiny images. Overhead shots are best reserved for instagram or for larger images.
- Packaging: For packaging, it was a toss up between GoodFood and Chef’s plate. Chef’s plate’s packaging was minimal but they use packets and thin plastics which I’m not sure can be recycled. GoodFood on the other hand uses recyclable containers (which in my mind look like the jars you provide your bio samples in). I’ve washed out and reused the containers to store spices in. I can’t tell which one is better – lesser amount of non-recyclable thin plastic packets vs more amount of recyclable and reusable plastic containers. Another point of concern was the ice packs. The two vendors that use the gel filled ice packs say that they can be reused (they can, but if you’re buying a box a week, they’re too many to rescue) or they can be disposed safely. I’m not sure how environment friendly they are. The water based ice pack that HelloFresh uses was a complete disaster. I would’ve preferred those but clearly they don’t survive during shipping. I wish GoodFood and Chef’s plate would start a recycling program for the ice packs. I’d rather they reuse the ice packs than produce more. This was the only reason that GoodFood didn’t get a higher score.
- Creativity of the dishes: This is where Chef’s plate overtook GoodFood. They had some tasty and creative Vegetarian choices. GoodFood does have great choices if you eat seafood or meat, but if you’re looking for vegetarian food, I’d choose Chef’s plate or HelloFresh. Chef’s plate got me excited to cook. Here’s a disclaimer though: what I find tasty may be different from what you find tasty or exciting. Consider checking out the dishes available before you sign up. Here’s an example of what I consider exciting: GoodFood: Sweet Chilli Garlic-Shrimp Bao, Mexican Spiced Chicken, Lemony Chicken Schnitzel, Sheet Pan Harissa Shrimp Chef’s Plate: Smoky Lentil Sloppy Joes, Flatbread Pizza HelloFresh: Warm Mexican Bean Bowl, Mozzarella Panini
- Ingredient Quality: I scored GoodFood and Chef’s Plate the same because of the quality of GoodFood’s chicken vs Chef’s Plate’s missing spice. HelloFresh’s rotten shallot is a deal breaker for me. To me all three sins are egregious.
- Value for Money: Here’s how the boxes stacked up cost-wise. I used coupons for all three boxes and the boxes served 2 (the minimum). If you’re single, most of the meals in the box will last you over two meals. Prices in CAD.
|Food Box||Number of meals per box||Price/box w/ discount||Price/box w/o discount||Price/ meal w/ discount||Price/meal w/o discount||Discount|
- I would choose Chef’s Plate, which, despite the least discount costed less and was great value for money. They had great vegetarian selection for the days I’m in the mood to eat vegetarian food. I made this choice fully aware of the shipping and quality control issues. You can purchase most missing components of a food box except the proprietary spice which is a damning mistake.
- I would place GoodFood second. Personally, for me, the acne breakouts from the chicken is a deal breaker. They lack variety and is more expensive than Chef’s Plate. But their shipping and delivery is flawless. And when they do put in effort to provide variety, their dishes are excellent. I do miss the old GoodFood though.
- HelloFresh seems to be trailing in every respect. They seem to exist as a foil to Chef’s Plate and to cut GoodFood’s market share.