Because a cable channel, digital platforms, two HBO shows and an ever-expanding news site wasn’t enough, Vice is now getting into the meal-kit business.
In partnership with prepared meal kit service Chef’d, and Vice food vertical Munchies, Vice’s resident chef Matty Matheson has come up with five meals, whose ingredients–and strict instructions—will all be shipped to your door.
I decided to test out some of these recipes for myself, to see what bringing the Munchies experience into my home would be like.
For anyone thinking of trying a meal subscription service, like HelloFresh or Blue Apron (which may announce an IPO in the coming months), this service works a little differently.
These meal kits are “à la carte,” no subscription required. This way customers still get the convenience of pre-determined recipes and pre-shopped ingredients, but can also use the service like a discovery tool.
“Our audience is young, and may not always know where they’re gonna be eating next week,” said John Martin, publisher of Munchies. “They don’t want to be forced to order three meals they have to cook at home.”
The meals, which have accompanying videos on Vice’s website, are not meant for amateur cooks. I pride myself on my knowledge of lingo like “mouthfeel” or “mise en place” or “cheftestants,” but most of the recipes I tried were even a step above my skill level. You’ll need a cast iron skillet for some recipes, a stand mixer for others, and ramekins–so many ramekins–things an established adult might own.
“These recipes are pretty straightforward, but there is a chef edge to them,” said Helen Hollyman, the editor in chief of Munchies. “They tell the story of Matty, and what he likes to cook at home during this season.”
“Our partnership allows us to bring their unique content directly from the screen to the dinner table,” added Kyle Ransford, founder and CEO of Chef’d. “Matty Matheson is a great chef, and now Vice fans have the opportunity to experience his culinary mastery firsthand.”
Let’s get cooking
My one clue would be to please read the entire recipe before getting started. Despite being aware of what pots, pans or extra ingredients from your pantry you’ll need, you should also keep an eye for the timing of these dishes. The prep time doesn’t include the entire length of time from start to finish; for example, the chocolate mousse says it’ll take 45 minutes, but one of the steps says to chill the mousse for three hours. The recipes aren’t out to get you, but you do need to be mindful of your time management skills.
As a vegetarian, I chose to cook the trout almondine, chocolate mousse and breakfast hash. (Other meal options include fried chicken and steak sandwiches. You can see the videos and meal kits here.)
After watching Matheson’s video on the dish a few days prior, I felt like I had a good idea of how this recipe should go.
Roast the fingerling potatoes, blanch (shock with ice immediately after boiling) the green beans before tossing with butter/lemon/chopped almonds and patiently pan fry the trout filets.
A note: the potatoes take the longest, so get those going first, instead of halfway through boiling the green beans like I did, because the green beans take literally one minute. Also, read the recipe. I used the juice of half a lemon in with the potatoes (I’ve done worse) but should have reserved the juice in a separate bowl. My bad.
However, because I live in Brooklyn and I am not a Rockefeller, I don’t have a working ice dispenser or any sort of ventilation in my kitchen nook. This meant using cold water instead of ice water to blanch the green beans, and standing on a chair to turn off my smoke detector multiple times while frying the fish.
The end result, despite all odds, was absolutely delicious. Chef’d worked with Vice to perfectly portion out ingredients with clear labels so I knew what to grab and when. The trout ended up crispy (the good kind) but still moist, and the browned butter sauce that went with the green beans was one of the best things I’ve tasted in a while. The roasted potatoes were equally delicious, and now I know how to roast them perfectly next time.
But I definitely needed five more hands to be able to accomplish everything the dish requires. Cooking at home, for me, is a more relaxed experience than what cooking in a restaurant is like, I’m assuming; a lot of things were happening all at once, which was probably only compounded by the smoke detector joining the party. It was so, so tasty, but also I was super sweaty and stressed the whole time. Win some, lose some.
Now, dessert time. After looking over the recipe for the chocolate mousse, I realized it required three hours of chilling before serving (which … is a bit much), so I got started on it a few minutes after cleaning up from the trout adventure earlier that night.
Like before, the ingredients were labeled and easily accessible. (Only one egg of the half dozen was cracked during shipping.) I’ve never made a mousse, let alone homemade whipped cream, so I was somewhat intimidated by all the ways this could fall apart.
I own, somehow, zero glass bowls which made creating a double boiler experience dangerous at best. And I didn’t watch the video in preparation, which would have helped illustrate what each step should look like; my whipped eggs and sugar didn’t reach the consistency of Matheson’s so I ended up making more of a ganache than the light and fluffy concoction of the chef’s.
While that chilled in the fridge, I MADE MY OWN WHIPPED CREAM. Let me tell you, that is an empowering experience. I used an electric hand mixer (not a standing mixer as the recipe card calls for because, again, Brooklyn, not a Rockefeller) and a frosty mixing bowl with all of the pre-portioned ingredients, and it legit came together.
Once you carefully incorporate the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream (with some of the whipped cream reserved for garnish), then you divide the mousse into individual ramekins (which … no one owns? Let alone more than one of?) and chill for three hours for it to set.
It’s VERY rich, but extremely tasty. A grown-up pudding. My Adweek colleagues also enjoyed the ramekin-less mousse. (That’s what they told me anyway.)
But this wasn’t something I expected Vice to tell me to make for a dessert, really. This involved a double boiler and separating egg yolks and making your own whipped cream. The final product was definitely something I could see at a dinner party or ordering at a restaurant, but the process to get there was more difficult than I anticipated from a Vice meal kit experience. At the same time, it was also more rewarding.
Don’t be like me and wake up early on a weekday to make this breakfast. This is totally more suited for a weekend/relaxed morning situation. It came together fairly well for someone who doesn’t own a cast iron skillet (though I really should, at this point) and who doesn’t like spicy foods in the morning.
It did make me think about the time between delivery and cooking of these meals; as this was my last meal to cook from this one delivery, things weren’t as fresh as they were a couple days earlier. Nothing was off, but if I had waited one more day, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to use any of the cilantro.
The meal was filling and hearty, but time-consuming. It’d be perfect for a breakfast-for-dinner situation. As the recipe and video notes, you can customize this a bit depending on the food preferences of you/your guests; make it vegan by omitting the cheese and eggs, or cook some kind of sausage to throw into the mix for more carnivorous folk.
If you have the time, then you’ll be able to get this dish together without much hassle. I used a square, glass baking dish instead of a cast iron skillet, which probably made this meal less authentic, but doable, regardless.
The Munchies at-home food experience was equal parts dangerous, risky and tasty; sort of like Vice. The cost for all three meals was $69 (including shipping) which served two trout dinners, two orders of hash and four servings of mousse. The meals I cooked were more challenging than I expected. But the Munchies audience will enjoy getting to create some of Matheson’s favorite recipes in a more convenient way than shopping and portioning the ingredients themselves.
According to Martin, the steak sandwich and fried chicken are the best-selling recipes. You can “bring those to the beach, or to the park for a picnic with friends,” he said.
Brands have already approached Munchies about being included in the kits, likely with samples or free trials.
As for how this fits into the ever-expanding Vice universe, Martin says this is no stunt. “We didn’t just go through nine months to create this partnership for a one-off thing,” he said. “We’ll be continuously adding recipes.”