In Zoom Japan vol.48 we covered how food delivery services, called demae in Japanese, have been an important part of Japanese food culture. In recent years a similar phenomenon has established itself and gained popularity in the UK too, with online services such as Just Eat, Hungry House and Deliveroo handling orders and delivery on behalf of a massive number of small restaurants. However, another alternative to the run of the mill takeaway delivery has recently emerged, with sites such as La belle Assiette, Chef X Change and Eho Chef offering a service where customers can order a professional chef to come and cook for them in their own homes.
These sites allow customers to to browse the chefs available in their local area and the course menus they offer, along with prices, to book them online. It is as easy as ordering regular deliveries, but the look and taste of what is served are much more sophisticated. Chefs who want to make use of their skills to earn some money can apply to be featured on the website too. There are many people who prefer treating their guests at home to eating out in restaurants, but cannot but do so just because they don’t have enough time, and these services help them by making use of their unused kitchens.
All these websites started up in the UK between 2012 and 2016, but at the very same time, many similar services, such as My Chef and Otodoke Chef (lit; chef delivery) opened for business in Japan and have become a hot topic of conversation there as well. One group that these sites appeal to is young Japanese couples with small children, who are not really accustomed to going out and entrusting their kids to a nanny, leaving them no choice but to stay home. As chef hire services let them enjoy a restaurant- quality meal without going out, as well as giving mum the night off, this has become a popular wedding anniversary present given by husbands their wives, as well as a treat bought by groups of friends who have children.