We’ve all been there — shopping and cooking for yourself (and your partner) is never an easy thing. There’s just no way of buying the exact amount you need, and you inevitably have to toss out a bunch of stuff from the fridge every week. What if I told you there is now a service that will deliver gourmet meal kits to your door — fresh, pre-portioned (so there’s no wastage) and chef-approved? It all comes with easy-to-follow instructions so you can prepare restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of your own home? Steve Ge, founder of Xinwei Cook, tells us what inspired him to create this.
Thanks Steve for taking the time to talk to us. First please tell us something about yourself.
I was born and raised in a working-class family in Shanghai, my dad works in administrative department in SMG and my mom is a photographer. We moved a lot when I grow up (I have lived in 4 districts of Shanghai). I went to a decent high school and got into Donghua University in Shanghai. But 2 years into college, I was bored of the Chinese college life and what it promised, so I was looking for ways to go abroad. I got admitted by a school in the U.S. which leads to a visa and a plane ticket to the States. From there, I applied to UC Berkeley and got admitted, where I studied business for a bachelor degree. I enjoyed California a lot and had a great time there. I met some of my best friends during my time in the States, who I still meet when they travel to China for work.
When did you come back to China and what have you been doing since you came back?
I came back in the summer of 2013. I had the goal of creating Xinwei when I came back, and I have been talking to chefs, etc before I came back. So I started immediately to preparing for the business, including setting up the company, setting up suppliers, developing the products, developing the website and looking for investors.
How did you come to set up Xinwei Cook? What are you trying to do with it?
When I was living in the US, I heard my friends back in Shanghai complaining about having difficulties in eating at home – being busy, lacking home-cooking experience, and being unsure about the safety of the ingredients. I see a potential to solve an generational problem on home-cooking if I can get quality ingredients, partition them and turn them into products that people can actually cook with, and sure there is a wide range of quality ingredients available in Shanghai as well as a feasible and economical way to turn them into a consumer product. It slowly turned into what is Xinwei Cook today. We are trying to get young people like me to cook more and eat better. If we a do a good job, our kids will have a fundamentally better diet than we had growing up. That is our goal.
How does it work?
It’s all really simple, I promise. First you select the meals that you want from our large menu of ready-to-cook recipes. Our user-friendly website allows you to filter down by your preference (vegetarian/meat/seafood) and by occasion (date night/ dinner party/ family dinner).You’ll receive our pre-portioned, finely-sourced meal kits delivered straight to your door. To prepare your own meal, simply follow the instructions that comes complete with pictures. Even complete beginners at cooking have marvelled at how easy it all is.
A selection of the gourmet meal kits available at Xinwei Cook.
How have other online subscription services been performing in China?
Most of them started rather recently, so it is hard to say their performance as it is too early to say. We’re the earliest player in this field. There are only couple of startups that started as early as us, and I think we are all doing better compare to the late-comers. These late-comers are copying us extensively. That is just something we have to deal with being an entrepreneur in this country. But so far, the ones with more original ideas are doing better than the copy cats.
How do you decide what recipes to feature?
The initial ideas usually comes in a form of a holiday, an ingredient, or a seasonal theme. For example, we would decide that we want to put out a recipe that features cod, then we would create a recipe that around that. Sometimes, we would create a recipes for Valentine’s Day or a recipe that feels spring. After that, we would tinker the recipe to ensure that people with average culinary skill can successfully make it at home, and the cost allow us to price the recipe in a certain price point, and the ingredients is feasible for our inventory management, etc. Finally, when all the factors have been thought through, at least the ones that we know at the time, we put the recipe into content production pipeline – photo shooting, recipe card designing – all that fun stuff.
How are locals responding to what you’re trying to do?
They are loving it. People are getting a taste of international cuisines, which are made by themselves. A lot of them actually cooked for the first time using Xinwei box. It actually surprised us that we can be the first dip into home-cooking for many people, and they are hungry for more – more recipes, more cuisines, more types of products, which makes us very excited.
Where do you see Xinwei Cook going in the future?
I think Xinwei is going to become an all-around meal solution company – not just home-cooking, but office meal, breakfast, etc. We want to create products that help people eat better and enjoy what they eat despite certain characteristics of modern life have kept them from doing so for so long, I think what Xinwei Cook will become will reflect that. I think if we succeed, people are going to look at meals a little different from then on.