A day in the life of a recipe developer
Ever wondered how a Hello Chef recipe arrives on your weekly menu? Or want to know more about what goes on in the test kitchen? Our lead recipe developer, Mia Blundell, reveals all…
When I ask Mia what she enjoys the most about her role as a recipe developer, she – unsurprisingly – says “eating.” But contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot more to our recipe team’s day-to-day working life than one might initially think.
“A big part of my job is assessing recipe performance,” she says. “We host a team Weekly Business Review (WBR) where we check out how the previous week’s menu performed in terms of sales and customer satisfaction. These findings then dictate any changes we make to those specific recipes, and offer us insights into what’s scored well and what we can do better.”
Consistent improvement is the name of the game with this team. Each Hello Chef recipe goes through a three-step, in-depth process and a minimum of two testing rounds before it reaches customers on the Weekly Menu. “We start with the conception stage, and a recipe is usually conceptualised based on selection gaps that we’ve identified in the WBR, competitor reviews or food trends – which could be inspiration that we find from holidays, local restaurants or social media,” says Mia.
Then comes the conception discussion where potential recipe ideas are pitched to the food team. Only after this discussion is the recipe then written, developed and tested by the recipe owner in the Hello Chef Test Kitchen. “The great bit about having the Test Kitchen onsite is that it’s such a streamlined process; each recipe made is instantly tested by members of the team and feedback can be given on the spot,” explains Mia. Each recipe is graded on ease of preparation, method and flavour – all of which are key pillars in creating a great recipe for customers.
Any necessary images for the recipe card are taken during the second round of testing, where the team put their top food styling tips into practice. Any changes to the method are also made at this stage. “Editing is something that I spend a lot of time on,” says Mia. “It’s my job to ensure that all of our recipes are standardised in the same tone and style of cooking that appeals to our customers.”
Mia also leads the Weekly Menu curation – much of which is determined by specific matrixes or briefs to determine the types of recipes that are included week-on-week. “Our presets help me in knowing that I’ll want to include a certain number of protein and fish dishes, plus a range of low-carb, low-calorie, vegetarian and vegan dishes,” she says. “I want it to be varied in terms of dish type, geography and ingredients. No one wants a week with a ton of green bean dishes!”
Each member of the food team spends a minimum of two full days cooking, testing and shooting in the Hello Chef Test Kitchen, creating at least five new recipes per week. “Much of my inspiration for recipe development comes from my travels,” explains Mia. “I can’t go anywhere without my ‘list’ coming with me. I review my notes once I’m back at home and sometimes, I have to accept that certain concepts won’t work. This could be due to a lack of available ingredients in the region, or the idea not aligning with the customer profile that we’re targeting. I particularly like travelling to America for inspiration as it’s such a melting pot of cuisines and so many top chefs are working over there.”
When in the kitchen, Mia has a handful of favourite ingredients to work with. “I love kimchi. It’s a complex flavour, and one that I have to be careful with when developing because of its peculiar taste, but I think it’s brilliant,” she says. “Avocados are another favourite of mine. It can be really hard to source good avocados in the region, but we’ve recently changed our supplier and I’ve been really impressed with the consistency and quality ever since.”
For any homecooks looking to develop their own recipes in the kitchen, Mia’s sole advice is to remember that finding the balance between sweet, salty and acidic is key. “Every dish should have one of each,” she says. “Remember, salt can be found in many ingredients, from Parmesan and miso, to soy and even pesto. Similarly, you can find sweetness in honey, dried fruits and butternut squash, and acidity in citrus fruits, vinegars, or even fresh tomatoes!”
Want to learn more about who’s on our team at Hello Chef? Read more about one of our newest recruits here. Interested to learn more about our recipes? Sign up to our newsletter to get weekly recipe inspiration sent directly to your inbox.