24 Hours in the Life of a Meal Kit Service Chef
The family meal draws crowds.
Justine Kelly is the executive chef Sun Basket—a meal delivery service known for its easy-to-make, healthy recipes. But as effortless as her meals may be, they take a lot of work—as 24 hours in Kelly’s life proves. The chef is also a mom to daughter, Stella—plus a pet parent to a dog and a cat. To fit in time to cook at home and at work, Kelly wakes at 5:30 a.m. each day—and here, she’s given us a look at what she whips up after her alarm clock goes off.
5:00 a.m.: My alarm goes off, and I decide to reset it to 5:30 a.m.
5:16 a.m.: I’m up, but I’m not ready to get out of bed. I pick up my phone and start reading about the fact that there are lots of ticks on the local trails right now.
5:35 a.m.: I am still reading up on ticks.
5:37 a.m.: I finally get up and snuggle with my Australian shepherd, River.
5:56 a.m.: Time to feed our cat, Macy, and River.
6:01 a.m.: I pour my coffee and go sit in living room on couch to answer some emails. I’ve got the news on in the background.
7:30 a.m.: I wake up my 11-year-old daughter, Stella.
7:43 a.m.: I make Stella’s breakfast: toaster pancakes—from leftover Sunday morning pancakes—plus berry compote and Greek yogurt. It’s MLK day, so no school lunch to make.
7:57 a.m.: Time for my second cup of coffee. But this time I make my Bulletproof butter coffee—just what it sounds like. I also grab my potato ricer, which I’ll need at work today.
8:03 a.m.: I take River to a nearby trail for an off-leash walk. Let’s hope there’s no ticks!
8:36 a.m.: I leave to drop Stella at her friends for a play date. They are off to Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf, and I wish I could go!
9:01 a.m.: I pick up my carpoolers, two coworkers that commute into San Francisco from Oakland with me and River. She is an office pup! When we get to the bridge, I realize I have forgotten my potato ricer for the family meal today. Grrrr!
9:21 a.m.: Because it’s MLK Day, there is no traffic. But because it’s MLK Day, there are no garages open downtown. I have to park at a meter on the street; I set the alarm for 4 hours.
9:28 a.m.: I arrive at the office. I take the stairs, because it’s better for me—and River is scared of the elevator!
9:33 a.m.: I walk into our photo studio and ask our intern and one of our test kitchen chefs if they can go pick up a potato ricer—apologizing profusely. I hate when I make extra work for folks. But they oblige.
9:47 a.m.: I walk into our other test kitchen loft space. Everyone is gathered around trying to figure out what smells so bad. I quickly realize—as does my R&D executive chef—that it is the fermenting rice flour batter for the noodle dish I will be making for the staff today.
9:54 a.m.: I send my project manager home because he is too sick to be at work. I love his passion, but I don’t want to get others sick!
10:13 a.m.: I start to gather ingredients to make a staff meal: A Vietnamese bun with fresh fermented rice noodles. Every Monday is test kitchen day, when someone always makes family meal for everyone. This week is my turn.
10:38 a.m.: I drain the rice flour of its stinky water, and add some fresh water to batter. Then I start to organize all our veggies and meat to prep. Next, I instruct my R&D executive chef, Alan, who has agreed to be my sous chef today, on how to make the marinades for our meats—including a lemongrass marinade for the pork and shrimp, and a five-spice one for chicken.
11:07 a.m.: Some of our Sun Basket public relations, content and social media folks arrive. I guess it is exciting to watch us make fresh rice noodles! Mondays are a popular day in our test kitchens for folks from other departments to visit for family meal. That’s why we do it.
11:14 a.m.: It’s been a while since I made Vietnamese food, and it smells like Vietnam in here!
12:12 p.m.: I start to cook the batter for the rice noodles in batches. It’s hard, and it takes two people to make—one to hold the pot and one to stir.
12:52 p.m.: We put water on for noodles and get an ice bath ready. Then I try to figure out the new fancy potato ricer that my team picked up. It’s unlike any I’ve used before, and now I really wish I hadn’t forgotten mine!
1:07 p.m.: It’s time to start cooking the first batch of noodles. Fingers crossed!
1:09 p.m.: The first batch done! Perfection! The noodles are springy and chewy—nothing like the ones you can buy in the store.
1:24 p.m.: Lunch is served. It’s a little late, but it’s also worth the wait.
1:28 p.m.: There is silence in the office, which is always a good sign!
2:03 p.m.: A coworker brings a birthday cake he made for Alan and another team member. It’s so pretty I could cry! Plus there’s ice cream. This is not a normal day in the office.
2:07 p.m.: I sing “Happy Birthday,” but I don’t eat cake. I’m not a sweets person.
2:09 p.m.: I take River out for another walk.
2:11 p.m.: I stop by the car because I realize I forgot to feed the meter again. There is an $84 ticket on my car. Harrumph!
2:12 p.m.: Adam, my cofounder and CEO, calls to discuss our 2018 roadmap. We talk until 3:05 p.m., and now I am late for another meeting.
3:08 p.m.: I have a meeting with my project manager on test kitchen project updates.
3:31 p.m.: We have a standardization project meeting on a six-month-long project build that is about to become process.
4:02 p.m.: I have a bi-weekly check-in meeting with one of my chefs. It’s focused on a secret future project.
5:05 p.m.: As I head out to my car, I say goodbye to the folks remaining in office—but there’s not many on a holiday day. Alan is still interviewing a food stylist in our photo studio.
5:12 p.m.: I’m back in the car for the commute. This time, it’s just me and River
5:47 p.m.: I get to Stella’s friend’s house, and I’m offered a glass of wine. If I must! These friends are in the wine industry.
5:53 p.m.: Over that glass of wine, I sit and hear about their day—a staycation style tour of San Francisco, and a lemonade stand. It sounded great
6:26 p.m.: I’m talked into another glass of wine. And I let River in to play with their dog.
7:12 p.m.: I head home with Stella and River.
7:21 p.m.: We’re finally home, and I realize it is a little late to be starting dinner, so I give Stella the option of leftover chicken noodle soup or burgers from our neighborhood joint. She chooses burgers—shocker!
7:53 p.m.: We pick up the burgers and I have dinner with Stella in our breakfast nook. I like to do what I call “gratitude and resentments” from our day. There is a lot of gratitude today, and not many resentments. It’s not always like that!
8:26 p.m.: I let Stella watch a show before getting ready for bed.
8:33 p.m.: Now that Stella’s watching her show, I get on the computer to go through emails.
9:14 p.m.: It’s time to send Stella to get ready for bed.
9:45 p.m.: I get ready for bed. When I’m tucked in, I pick up a Naomi Klein book. River’s snuggling in bed with me.
10:39 p.m.: I set my alarm for 5:30 am. Lights out for me.