Though quarantine is forcing most of us to become more dedicated home cooks, few are making fancy, restaurant-worthy dishes every night. But that might change soon.
Recipes for Relief is a website where famous chefs and mixologists post recipes for meals and drinks. Each recipe features a title, the name of the chef who created it, and a short description. You can choose to purchase the recipe for $2, $5, or $10. All of the funds go directly back to the chefs or mixologists.
The initiative grew out of meez, a recipe management tool that allows professional chefs and mixologists to digitize their recipes, make edits, scale it up/down to feed various amounts of diners, and share them with team members. Meez is currently in beta testing mode and was preparing to launch back when quarantine forced restaurants to shut their dining rooms. Since then, meez has pivoted to share the recipes with folks that are outside the professional kitchen — home cooks.
Recipes for Relief kicked off in mid-April and currently includes around 80 recipes from 20 chefs. I connected with Francine Lee, who does business development for meez, via phone to learn more about why the company decided to start Recipes for Relief. “Other than takeout and delivery, plus government aid, there’s no way to generate revenue for restaurants right now,” Lee told me. “We thought, ‘What can we do?'”
As a quarantined person who loves to cook, of course I had to give Recipes for Relief a try. I added two recipes to my cart that looked both delicious and achievable: Miso Biscotti and Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. Within 24 hours I got an email with a link to my meez account, which had the two recipes plus a dozen bonus ones. From my initial perusing, the recipes all seemed relatively easy to make and featured ingredients that the average person could actually find at a store.
Lee told me the company has also worked with the chefs to edit the recipes to make them doable for non-professionals — using more basic techniques, ubiquitous appliances, etc. “There’s also a lot of cool tips and tricks that happen in a professional kitchen that could be insightful for a home cook,” she told me. Recipes for Relief is also gathering data on what types of recipes people are buying most to curate their new offerings.
I was hesitant about the portion sizes of the recipes. Chefs obviously work on a much larger scale than home cooks. But meez has solved this problem by offering capabilities to scale the recipes (1/2x, 2x, 4x, etc) to accommodate any number of people. You can also manually enter the amount of any ingredient you have (e.g., 1 cup of cider vinegar) and all the other ingredients will adjust accordingly. You can even ask chefs about ingredient swaps in the comments.
According to Lee, the conversions are actually one of the key selling points for both meez and Recipes for Relief. That could be especially useful in our quarantine kitchens, when we’re forced to work with what we have more than ever before.
Recipes for Relief’s interface still needs some polishing. There were several grammatical errors and some of the instructions lacked detail. I’d also like allergy and dietary restrictions listed (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free) clearly on the recipes. If meez decides to add a permanent tool targeting home cooks, not restauranteurs, these changes could make it a lot more useful.
As someone who’s worked in a restaurant and knows how complicated recipes not developed for home chefs can be, I’d normally be skeptical of tackling a restaurant recipe at home. But now, with time on my hands and a hankering for a physical project, there’s no better time to try my hand at a complicated recipe — especially if those recipes are also helping to support restaurants.