Food shopping online turns to unready meals on wheels

There are many secrets in the legal world but possibly few as bizarre as that of Patrick Drake. Bored with his ill-judged career choice to become a lawyer, the young food enthusiast led a double life while working at Clifford Chance, dealing with his various briefs during office hours but sneaking into the kitchen of the fine dining room on the 30th floor during lunchtime to learn as much as he could.

These clandestine sessions were a leading factor in Drake quitting the law – colleagues thought he had “lost his marbles” – and becoming a founding member of Hello Fresh, one of a new wave of companies working to re-engineer the takeaway meal.

Inspired by a similar model in Sweden, the company delivers ingredients and recipes so customers can quickly make their own meals from a menu of dishes such as satay chicken and pasta with roasted squash.

Restricting customers’ shopping basket to the exact quantity of ingredients required also reduces the potential for waste because the cooks at home don’t end up with a cupboard full of spice jars they have only used once or twice.

Customers generally order three to five meals for two or four people – the most popular choice works out at £6.50 per meal – and the meat or vegetarian option is delivered in specially crafted boxes along with a menu and recipes.

Drake says the system encourages people to attempt dishes they have not made before by making it simple for them. “There is that intimidation factor with cooking – that ‘I have never tried this recipe before so I am not going to try it’,” says Drake. “Layered on top of that is that, if you want to try a new recipe, you probably have to buy three different types of spices, maybe never use them again and you will have to buy a whole pot which will stay in the back of your cupboard for five, maybe eight, years. I have found a pot in my cupboard from when I was a student and that is a waste of money.

“The core of it is taking away the tyranny of choice for people. Just saying ‘Here is the option, you don’t need to do any thinking, you just follow the pictures on the back of the recipe card.’”

Hello Fresh launched simultaneously in Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and the UK three years ago and has progressed from Drake and his colleagues packing Parmesan cheese in his London flat and making deliveries on the tube to raising more than £45m in three rounds of funding through e-commerce venture capital group Rocket Internet and expanding into the US.

The concept of delivering an unprepared meal has attracted other players. Berlin start-up Marley Spoon started delivering in the UK last month after first taking orders in Germany.

Co-founder Fabian Siegel says that, rent aside, food is the biggest expenditure for most people. “It is a bigger industry than the car industry. It is a massive industry that hasn’t been touched by e-commerce, that hasn’t been touched by technology. I won’t even say it is a low-tech industry, I would say that it is a no-tech industry.

“There are hundreds of millions of tonnes of food being thrown away in the European Union every year so we thought that is a massive industry.”

Marley Spoon tells its customers they only need salt, pepper and oil and it will provide the rest of the ingredients. Its minimum order is four portions per delivery, at an average price of about £8 per dish, which will last five days in the fridge.

Siegel says it can often work out cheaper to buy from his service and get what you need rather than buying ingredients that you end up throwing away. “When you cook for yourself, you buy in the supermarket sauces but the quantities are not what you need,” he says.

The rise of the celebrity chef in recent years and the boom in television shows and spin-off books has opened up the opportunity for companies like theirs, he says. “I feel the success of cooking shows made the market ready for a product like this. You want to cook and you want to get inspiration for new things and we make it very easy for you,” Siegel says.

Drake thinks the service offers access to foods that may otherwise be unavailable. “If you are living in rural Shropshire, you don’t necessarily have access to an Asian supermarket that does rice noodles and kimchi and mirin. There is a sense for people outside London that we want to be doing what they are doing too,” he says.

But they are problems. The perception among customers that what Hello Fresh offers is an alternative to shopping and not an occasional one-off treat is the greatest stumbling block, says Drake.

Eager to eat healthily but unable to find consistent options for eating after work in the City, friends Marcus Price and Niall Crowley set upEvolve, a home delivery service for paleo ready-meals. The diet, which is popular in the US, removes dairy, grains and processed sugars with dishes using alternatives, such as swapping standard rice for cauliflower rice or sweet potato noodles.

“Cooking is not my strong point.” says Crowley. “So there was a need for people like ourselves that are working long hours and don’t have the ability to cook.”

After starting to sell the meals at their local gym, they are distributing about 6,000 meals a month, at £12 each, to a loyal audience of about 300 a week, mostly in the City of London.

What’s in the box?

The specific shopping box which contains individually proportioned ingredients is dictated by the exact menus on the recipe cards. Dishes typically alternate depending on where you live – a sample Hello Fresh menu in the UK has peppered pork fillet and a meatball curry while in the US there is a coffee-rubbed steak taco. Single garlic cloves are included instead of a whole bulb along with individual sticks of celery and small pots of sauces and cheeses.



Amazon glitch leaves business owners facing bankruptcy as products are advertised for 1p

Businesses have lost thousands of pounds and face bankruptcy after a technical error meant hundreds of products were sold for 1p on Amazon.

Members of the public cashed in after a piece of software used by retailers on Amazon malfunctioned, advertising a range of products from clothes and toys to home furnishings and health products, for a fraction of their usual price.

The software by Repricer Express automatically reprices products so they are cheaper than others in the digital market, to ensure businesses remain competitive, however the technical error meant prices plummeted.

The glitch occurred on Friday (12 December) between 7pm and 8pm, during which time shoppers snapped up the giveaways, as news that “Amazon was broken” spread rapidly on social media.

I am truly sorry for the distress this has caused our customers. We have received communication that Amazon will not penalise sellers for this error.
- Brendan Doherty CEO of RepricerExpress

Russell Brudenell wrote on Twitter: “Amazon is all kinds of broken. Mattress 1p. Headphones 1p. Batteries, Clothing, Games all 1p. Someone messed up big time (sic).”

Joely Thompson said: “Amazon are having a glitch on their site and loads of stuff is selling for 1p. I just bought an incense holder, don’t even need it.’

One of the sellers, Judith Blackford of Kiddymania, told Sky News she could be forced out of business as result of the error.

“I started using Repricer Express – a repricing tool as did a lot of other businesses a few months ago,” she said. “Last night through an error in their programme they listed my stock on Amazon at 1p per item including delivery. I have lost about £20,000 overnight. Having asked Amazon to cancel the orders they are still sending them out and charging me horrendous fees. Surely someone has to be accountable for this. I will be bankrupt at this rate by the end of January.”

Another online trader Belle who sells toys and games, said the mistake will see her lose £30,000 and potentially put her out of business.

She told Sky News: “It’s disgusting really because this third party software, that is their business, this should not have happened, this is 2014. We have to pay for this software every month, we’ve beenusing it for 18 months no problem. At the busiest time – this was predicted to be our busiest weekend of Christmas – turnover is zero.”

A statement on the company’s website from Brendan Doherty CEO of RepricerExpress said: “I am truly sorry for the distress this has caused our customers. We have received communication that Amazon will not penalise sellers for this error. We are continuing to work to identify how this problem occurred and to put measures in place to ensure that it does not happen again. Everyone here is devastated and disappointed that you have experienced this problem. We understand that you are angry and upset and we will endeavour to work to make good on this issue.”

Amazon said the majority of orders were cancelled immediately and confirmed it would be working with sellers who had seen orders processed.

A spokesman for Amazon said: “We are aware that a number of Marketplace sellers listed incorrectprices for a short period of time as a result of the third party software they use to price their items on Amazon.co.uk.

“We responded quickly and were able to cancel the vast majority of orders placed on these affected items immediately and no costs or fees will be incurred by sellers for these cancelled orders.

“We are now reviewing the small number of orders that were processed and will be reaching out to any affected sellers directly.”



‘The Banh Mi Handbook': A Guide To A Viet-French Sandwich

 Some kids know they want to be doctors or pilots or professional sports players— Andrea Nguyen knew by the time she was 10 she wanted to be a sandwich maker. She says she’s been making sandwiches and fooling around with the recipes and the ingredients since elementary school.

The sandwich she fell for first and that she still loves the most? Banh mi. (It’s pronounced “bun-mee.”) Her latest cookbook, The Banh Mi Handbook, is a guide for home cooks who want to make banh mi of their own.

Banh mi is the culinary love child of two distinct civilizations, the Viet and the French. The French became the colonial power in Vietnam and while the country’s citizens could argue about whether there was any benefit to French political oversight, they did agree that the baguette was a happy legacy from that time. There are regional variations: banh mi in the Communist north tended to be simple — maybe some meat, salt and pepper between bread that was crispy on the outside, with a delicate interior.

“In the south,” Nguyen laughs, “they lived large like they do in the south here. So a lot of stuff was added — fresh herbs, vegetables, pickles — and the protein could be anything. Chicken, meat, seafood, even pate.”

Vegetarians could go all-veggie, or add tofu flavored with aromatics.

The result, Nguyen says, is “a party in your mouth!”

When Nguyen and her family fled Vietnam in 1975, they settled in Southern California. And as some of the earlier Vietnamese immigrants did, they adapted what was in local groceries to make dishes from their homeland. They bought cheap commercial banh mi from businesses started by immigrant entrepreneurs, but didn’t find it very satisfying. Finally, one day, Nguyen’s mother, Tuet Ti, put her foot down.

“After a while of eating these mass-produced, cheap sandwiches,” Nguyen remembers, “my mom would say ‘Tien nao cua nay,’ which means ‘You get what you pay for.’ So let’s start making our own.”

And 40 years later, they still are. The big difference is that now a lot of the ingredients that were considered exotic in many grocery stores across the nation are now pretty common: cilantro, jalapeño chilies, ginger and sriracha are on shelves from coast to coast. And recently, banh mi are popping up restaurant menus and in food magazines.

Banh mi’s moment has arrived — which is something commercial entities have recognized. The owners of Chipotle Mexican Grill opened ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen a few years ago to tremendous success. A few months ago, Yum, Incorporated – which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC – opened Banh House, the first of several planned quick-casual restaurants where banh mi are a central part of the menu. Andrea Nguyen says this is huge:

“When you see a company like that in the United States pushing an ethnic food, that means that they’re betting on that food going super mainstream.” (Another indication: two years ago, Sunset Magazine, that super-mainstream celebration of life in the Western United States, placed banh mi on its cover.)

Banh mi is quick and affordable, but it is not a sandwich to be assembled in a willy-nilly way. There is a protocol to assembling banh mi: First you warm the roll, so the outside is crispy and the inside remains soft. Let it cool just a little bit, then smear mayonnaise (plain or flavored with sriracha or chopped herbs) to the edges of the bread. Sprinkle with Maggi, an aromatic sauce that’s often found on grocery shelves near soy (which you can use instead) or gravy enhancers like Kitchen Bouquet. Then add your protein — poultry, meat, tofu, whatever. Top with pickles, then fresh cucumber. Toss on jalapeños, if you like heat, and sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, mint, and/or basil) and you’re done.

The cool thing about banh mi is you can riff on it: substitute soy for Maggi, leave cilantro off if you hate it. Use leftover protein — slices of last night’s roast, extra shrimp, slabs of tofu that didn’t get used up in your stir-fry. Or…. turkey. By the end of the week, there’s a good chance that you’ll have some leftover turkey around that would just love to be turned into banh mi.

Here’s a recipe from The Banh Mi Handbook that uses rotisserie chicken under everyday circumstances. Just substitute slices of leftover turkey for chicken (if you have turkey skin, you can make the cracklings described in the recipe), and you’re in business. Bon appetit.

Rotisserie Chicken and Cracklings

Takes about 15 minutes, makes enough for six banh mi.

    • A small (about 2 lb / 1 kg) rotisserie chicken
    • Salt, kosher preferred
    • Black pepper
  • Splash of canola oil

Use your fingers and/or a knife to take the meat off the bone, reserving the skin for cracklings, if you like. Save any juices. Tear the meat into pieces the size of your index finger so you can tuck it into the bread. You’ll have about 1 and 1⁄4 pounds (565 g). Mix with the reserved juices and set aside. If you are not making cracklings, skip this next step.

Crackling lovers — cut the pieces of skin into strips the length and width of your index finger (they’ll shrink down). Put into a skillet and cook over medium heat, stir- ring occasionally, for about 6 minutes, until the skin has rendered fat and is the color of an autumn leaf. Transfer to a paper towel to drain and sprinkle lightly with salt. Reuse the skillet (with fat still in it) to reheat the chicken.

Before using the chicken for sandwiches, season it with salt and lots of pepper; aim for a savory flavor in the flesh. Gently reheat the chicken in a skillet over medium heat with a couple splashes of oil or the fat left over from making cracklings. Use a handful of the soft, slightly warm chicken along with some cracklings for each sandwich.

Add your choice of mayos or the garlic yogurt sauce, Maggi, snow pea pickle, cucumber, and cilantro. Sprinkle on the cracklings after laying down the seasoned chicken. Add fresh chile if desired.




Visualizing Success for 2015


Visualization, or envisioning, and the use of visualization as a business tool, is not new. It’s been around for decades, but like many other fundamental business differentiators, it is primarily used by a small minority of entrepreneurs and business people. This is a shame, because when exercised correctly, it can help one achieve their goals not only in business, but in most other facets of their life.

One reason visualization is not employed as often as it could be is that it’s difficult. Like most skills that can produce dramatic changes, it requires a solid base, constant maintenance, updates as necessary, and reflection to realize its success. Life and the daily distractions of our lives get in the way and planning something that may not occur for years or decades takes a back seat.

The concept of visualization is deceivingly simple, considering the difficulty most people have in successfully implementing it. One must create a picture in their minds of what it is they want to achieve. This may be attaining a successful role in their chosen career; publishing a significant paper or book; building their dream home; starting and selling a company for $100M; or getting married and raising a family. After achieving this mental picture, one then sets out to achieve that goal, keeping in mind the picture so that when they attain the goal, they clearly realize they have achieved their specified goal and can file it away as a success, enjoy the increased confidence and beneficial feelings that rightfully come with that success, and move on to the next visualization with more confidence they can achieve their goals.

So if it’s so simple, why do people fail to execute this skill on a regular basis? Some of the reasons for failure to successfully employ visualization as a tool include:

Lack of self confidence to create a meaningful vision. If one works as a fast food server and never thinks they will ever be anything else, it is nearly impossible for them to think of themselves as doing anything else, except as a dream (see below the similarities and differences between envisioning and dreaming).
Allowing oneself to live in a constant state of reaction so that one can never plan for the future. Being reactive happens with all of us, but for some there is a refuge in simply reacting to every day and the events that come with it rather than taking the time to plan a better life or specific desirable goal. It’s easy to blame lack of planning on daily events, but the reality is every single person has a life with daily events that require some level of reaction. It’s the successful ones who look beyond these events to something greater in the future.
Genuine negative influences that create an environment that makes envisioning difficult. Extreme examples of this would be addictions (where one is unable to envision anything beyond their next fix), abusive environments where on is brought to a lower level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs through chronic physical or mental threats, severely impairing the ability of the individual to rise to the level of self-fulfillment, or simply the constant onslaught of negative feedback that undermines the individual’s self confidence to the point where they don’t feel they’re worthy or capable of achieving anything of matter.
Lack of knowledge of how to envision a goal, or confusion of dreaming with envisioning.
I personally have always used envisioning to achieve my goals in life, with success in most cases. When I graduated from my undergraduate program I wanted to be a Navy SEAL. I didn’t have the typical background that one would expect, although I lifted weights and practiced martial arts, I had never run more than a mile or swam more than 100 yards in my life. But I decided this was what I was going to do and created a vision in my mind of becoming a Navy SEAL. I pictured myself going through training, completing rigorous tests and finally becoming a SEAL, which in my mind was (and is) the modern day equivalent of the Samurai – a professional warrior. Now if I had simply stopped there, I probably never would have been anything other than a “wanna-be”, and this would have qualified as a dream rather than a vision. Where this dream became a vision was when I spent days, weeks solidifying the vision of what success would be in my mind. What I would be like, physically and mentally, after SEAL training. What I would be doing as a Navy SEAL. Then I started working backwards from the vision to the steps that would get me there. For a kid who had never ran more than a mile and swam more than 100 yards (SEAL BUDS training required a 14 mile timed run and 7 mile ocean swim), this would normally be considered an impossible goal. But I worked out in my mind what would get me to be able to do these tasks, and visualized how I would go about them. I researched everything I could find about SEAL training, every phase and event, and talked to anyone I could find who could tell me more. Then I planned and pictured what I would have to do to train to the level where I could make it through training. Then I executed on that plan, and eventually I became the vision that I had in my mind, a Navy SEAL.

I’ve used this for other large goals in my life, including starting my business and building my house.


So why was I successful?  I followed these steps that I believe are critical to successful envisioning.

  1. Have a blank slate.  If you think of creating a vision as creating a drawing on an etch-a-sketch (if you’re old enough to remember these…), you can’t create a clear vision unless you shake the etch-a-sketch so that it is blank.  You have to be able to clear your mind to be able to create the clear vision.  You can’t do this if you’re continually reacting to the outside world, filling your free time with banal stimuli such as television or video games, or dealing with negative influences in your life.  So what to do?  Get away.  Go to someplace new.  That doesn’t mean going to Tahiti and sitting on the beach for 6 months (unless you have the means and desire to do so), but could simply mean going to a quiet lunch by yourself at a new café, or after work driving to the beach or a park to sit quietly and think.  Go for a run or a walk. Forget about all the things that require your immediate attention and just think.  Don’t blast loud music in your headphones or read a book, just clear your mind so you can reflect and think.  For some people, this can be very hard, and they will seek some stimulus to keep from thinking – avoid that temptation and just think.  Get away from negative influences in your life, whether they are people, jobs, relationships, or situations.   Life is far too short to let your visions be undermined by negativity.
  2. Create your vision.  Hold it in your mind.  Write it out if that helps.  Draw a picture of what success looks like.  Picture your emotions as you enjoy that success.  Make it as detailed as you can. Hold it in your mind as you drift off to sleep and think about it when you wake up.  Then relax.  Go back to your daily life then revisit your vision in a few days or weeks.  With the passage of time, make modifications to it as you think you need to.  At this stage of your vision, you’re best off by not sharing it with others as their feedback will influence your vision.  It’s your vision, not someone else’s.  People by nature will try to fit your vision into their perspective and will try to convince you to change it.  Who could Galileo have talked to about his vision of the world being round who wouldn’t try to change his mind to fit their perspective?  When Apple launched the first iPad it was panned by critics who couldn’t envision this device ever replacing a laptop or being used by any but a few.  Steve Jobs obviously didn’t consult them for advice when he was envisioning the iPad. At this stage, you need to create your vision on your own.
  3. Create a path to your vision from where you are now.  This is the critical step that separates a vision from a dream.  You can create a vision of being the President of the USA, but if you never think about how you will get from being a waiter to that point it’s just a dream.  Do you have the education and skills you need?  The connections?  The money? The physical skills?  The mental skills or tenacity?  If not, figure out how you can get those things.  Talk to people that have done what you envision and ask them.  Ask a lot of them, as they each may have a different set of experiences that you can borrow from.  If you need to refine your vision, do so, but make sure you don’t give up on your vision under the pretext of refining it.  The path you create may seem impossible, but if you break it down into doable steps you’ll find that even what seem like the most impossible visions can be achieved.
  4. Execute on your path.  Start the small steps you need to get there.  Congratulate yourself on your progress for making those steps.  When time passes and you haven’t made progress, don’t give up, just re-envision and motivate yourself to take those small steps.  If you have done steps 2 and 3 correctly, you will find that you are taking both conscious and unconscious steps towards your vision and making choices that move you towards your vision rather than away from it.  At this point you can start sharing your vision with others, but be careful of those who will seek to undermine your vision because it threatens their own self-confidence.  I knew a co-worker whose wife had been accepted to medical school, but he convinced her to drop out because the path to being a doctor required so many years.  It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford it, but that he didn’t want her going through that much school and taking time away from him.  Recognize those who will undermine your vision and avoid them, or simply listen politely and ignore them.
  5. Success.  When you have reached your goal, celebrate.  Recognize you have achieved something you never thought you could have achieved.  Do something good for yourself.  Maybe now you take that trip to Tahiti.
  6. Create your next vision.  Revel in the idea that you now know how to accomplish goals that you never thought possible and that you can do it again and again.



The FBI is making new efforts to warn US businesses of malicious software attacks

With the recent hack of Sony pictures entertainment the FBI is warning a variety of US companies to up their security or face the consequences. In the crippling cyber attack that happened last week the FBI released a five-page confidential flash warning issued out to many different businesses on Monday. This flash warning details some of the technical specs of the malicious software that was used in the Sony entertainment attack. The FBI isn’t really commenting on the nature of the emerging cyber threats or what’s in the document but it has said that the software essentially overrides data on hard drives, makes them completely inoperable and can shut down entire network scraping the data in the process. This new type of malware is extremely difficult to remove and very costly. Many of the hard drives that have been wiped due to this security breach have not been recovered yet even by top security professionals at US companies.