Deep into a second -- perhaps entering a third -- generation of children raised in homes where all the adult caretakers held full time, out-of-home jobs, cooking the family dinner is riddled with obstacles.
There's the 24/7 work schedule, replacing the fairy tale of 9-to-5; there's a hypervigilant society, bent on turning 9-year-olds into professional ball players and ballet dancers; there's a DIY culture, implying everyone should know how to compost, remodel, do car repair and build solar-powered everything, all while training for a triathlon and raising 2.7 kids.
Un Kwon and Chris Casado lived that life. The San Francisco couple worked in high-tech finance and kept a fast pace with their young son. Until 2009, when they moved their operation to Orinda. Kwon, pregnant with their second child, held late-night, new-mom phone conversations with a college buddy, personal chef (and also new mom) Karen Eddy. They commiserated over the sorry state of family dinners until one night, their commingled angst produced an idea -- to create a company offering affordable, reliable, personal shopping based on healthy, easy-to-prepare menus and delivering the groceries straight to the doorsteps of local homes. Chop, Chop, Go! is the culmination of a two-year, entrepreneurial push. With Casado managing website and delivery logistics and working with Whole Foods Market, Eddy creating weekly menus, Heather MacKenzie supplying marketing expertise, and Kwon testing recipes, recruiting clients and adding the vital, personal touch, the meal-planning/grocery-shopping service company launched during the summer of 2012.
"Originally, we had a huge database of recipes from bloggers," Kwon says, in an interview earlier this year. "It was too busy and overambitious. Recipes had 20 ingredients and were a nightmare to prepare."
The menus have since been honed to simplicity, mixing and matching recipes so customers aren't left with a bucket of parsley or forced to toss out exotic, one-and-done ingredients at week's end.
"That's the beauty of bringing high-tech to an old-time idea," Kwon says. "We were able to eliminate inefficiency and redirect the platform to what customers wanted -- something easy and something they could trust."
For now, Chop Chop Go! serves central Contra Costa, from Danville north to Pleasant Hill.; Kwon says expansion to more cities in the East Bay is "on our radar."
Customers getting started choose delivery options ($5 store-pickup or $15 home delivery, plus the cost of groceries); build a grocery list (either on the website, by texting, or the old-fashioned way: write it and send a picture); and indicate organic or conventional preferences before finalizing their order. Prime members gain access to the $5-per-month meal plan (also a standalone option); paying $45 for the menus and five home-delivered orders per month.
The ordering process is designed to take less than two minutes. Kwon says early adopters respond to the next-day morning or afternoon/evening delivery options and the service is appealing to a 60-40 gender split. "The dads sometimes seem the most interested," Casado says. Unfamiliar with cooking techniques, dinner becomes a chore or a pressure cooker waiting to explode. "People become better cooks and relax -- I've learned there's a rhythm to Eddy's recipes," Kwon says.
Moraga resident Kevin Schroeder says he and his wife began subscribing in May. They like the quality of Whole Foods and the convenience of avoiding a 20-minute round trip visit to the store.
"The best thing is the recipes make good use of the items you already buy. It cuts down on waste and gives us variety so we don't eat spaghetti every night," he says.
Interestingly, Kwon's parents and Casado's grandparents owned small market grocery stores. "We joke that this is a natural extension of our families' businesses," Kwon says.