Restaurants have been offering takeout and delivery as many Chicagoans hunker down at home. But for those who are looking to cook for themselves and don't know where to start, or are having trouble accessing ingredients, chefs are also offering meal kits and DIY dinners.
Restaurants have been deeply impacted by the closures, and many of the chefs behind the kits are hoping to keep some cash coming in and staff members employed.
“My number one priority is, how do we pay our staff?” Jennifer Kim, the chef-owner at Passerotto, asks. “Our last option is closing and then temporarily laying off everyone, but I don’t want it to come to that. There are ways that we can draw on the experience that people have.”
“We talk a lot about equality and equity, and the time has come to cash in on the things we’re talking about. In times of crisis or when resources are limited and people need it the most, our hourly employees and undocumented people are extremely vulnerable. So how do we take care of them?”
Kim says she was inspired by her staff to create the meal kits, which include necessary ingredients and instructions to make kimchi, XO chili sauce, and rice cakes.
“A lot of the staff are working artists, so we thought, What are some things that we can do, things that make sense to us, and draw on our strengths?” Kim says. “A lot of people, as they’re being socially distanced, are looking for something to do. For me, I would definitely love to be making kimchi and rice cakes at home. So, we made kits with everything you need, plus readily available ingredients like water, salt, and pepper.”
Passerotto also offers food for pickup and delivery, as well as some items that support the Lost Lake staff fund, like a mushroom five-spice soup mix made by executive chef Fred Noinaj, who was among the staff members laid off earlier this week.
Other restaurants are offering other items for sale that you can use to turn into dinner, including 16 oz. jars of butter chicken sauce from Mango Pickle, which will be available starting Monday at 12 p.m. Chef-owner Marisa Paolillo suggests mixing in chicken and serving it over rice and pasta. Daisies is offering a pasta meal kit, with housemade tagliatelle, portobello mushroom ragu, and other accompaniments, along with instructions for how to make it at home, while Gene & Georgetti is selling fresh sauces and meatballs to have on hand. At Spinning J, chef-owner Dinah Grossman offers frozen take-and-bake biscuits by the dozen, including buttermilk and blue cheese herb versions.
While you may already have a frozen pizza stashed in your freezer, a couple spots are offering kits to make pies at home. Dimo’s Pizza has build-your-own pizza kits and will be streaming pizza-making demos each night at 6:30 p.m. on Instagram. The kits are available in 10 combinations, including chicken and waffles, BBQ chicken cheddar bacon ranch, and mac and cheese. Prices start at $15 and a portion of the profits will be donated to local hospitals and food pantries.
If deep dish pizza is more your style, Gino’s East is offering kits to learn to make their deep dish pies (or thin, if you’d prefer) at home. The kits are $15 for one pizza or $25 for two, and they come with the necessary ingredients and step-by-step instructions.
Finally, if you need a cocktail at the end of the day, The Violet Hour is selling cocktail kits to make a big batch of Old Fashioneds at home. The $100 kit includes a bottle of Sazerac Rye, The Violet Hour’s flavored cocktail syrup, a barspoon, a jigger, and a tote bag — all you need is some ice.