Feasting is our column dedicated to cooking, grilling, eating and discovering what’s on the menu across America and the world.
Living without food delivery would be difficult, especially if you reside in a city where it’s integrated into daily life. But not all takeout is created equal. Everyone has their favorite pizza spot and knows the Chinese food that won’t be soggy on arrival. And then there are the companies that have made meal delivery their entire business, from Blue Apron for DIYers to Caviar for those who want takeout from higher-end restaurants. Our favorite newcomer is Maple, a meal delivery service that believes great, wholesome food shouldn’t be difficult to come by.
Maple recruits NYC’s most talented chefs to design rotating daily menus that feature seasonal, high-quality ingredients and simple preparations. Some mainstay dishes like BBQ baked chicken sit alongside specials like curry spiced shrimp. There are always vegan and vegetarian options and they just added a sushi menu to the lineup. To learn more about Maple, we chatted with CEO Caleb Merkl to see what’s behind the kitchen door.
First things first; why food delivery?
Food delivery doesn’t work well right now. Most traditional restaurants aren’t built to send meals outside of their dining rooms, which means delivery experiences are highly inconsistent. Consumers tend to be met with an overwhelming number of choices, the food itself often shows up in a pretty sorry state, and to top it all off, customers pay hefty fees for the privilege of such an experience.
Maple was built from a blank slate with the idea of making the delivery experience feel premium at every step of the process. We deliver balanced meals made from the highest quality ingredients, wrapped in a great experience and all at a price that a traditional restaurant can’t come close to.
We love that you source quality, seasonal ingredients and cook wholesome food that’s healthier than traditional delivery. Can you talk about some of the farmers and purveyors you work with and why?
One of Maple’s most compelling aspects is the quality of the ingredients we use in our dishes—on par or, in some cases, significantly better than what you’d find at your favorite neighborhood bistro, but at substantially more accessible prices. We have an incredible internal sourcing and purchasing team that invests an enormous amount of time and energy into finding and building strong relationships with the best purveyors. Happy Valley Meat Co. is a B-corp based in Brooklyn that works as a co-op for largely Amish farmers in Pennsylvania focused on humanely raising and butchering cattle. We use this farming co-op for many of our beef and lamb offerings. We work with Satur Farms on Long Island who grows custom green blends for us that are meant to be slightly heartier—they stand up better for salad delivery. We also work with local favorite Balthazar Bakery for much of our bread.
What do you look for when deciding to work with a new chef? Are there any coming up on the roster you’re really excited about?
Our Executive Chef Soa Davies, Chief Culinary Officer David Chang and Maple’s Culinary Board have been instrumental in helping build the program by personally taking part and connecting us with chefs they admire. The Guest Chef program emphasizes culinary experimentation and an opportunity to pair the Maple platform with fresh perspectives from New York’s Culinary scene. We love it because we spend time with some of the best chefs in the city (tinkering with recipes no less) and our customers enjoy a fresh take on the Maple experience. And many guest chefs have loved the experience so much, they ask to come back. Maple is a platform for chefs to experiment with recipes outside their own restaurants and provides an opportunity to reach a very wide swath of Manhattan in a single gesture. We have some great collaborations coming up this fall but aren’t quite ready to share more details yet.
Do you see Maple expanding to more New York boroughs or additional cities in the near future?
Right now, we’re focused on serving as many hungry New Yorkers in Manhattan as possible. We’re excited to expand but will do so as fast as we can without sacrificing our product and experience. Either way, I’m confident people are going to see a lot more of Maple in 2016 and beyond.
What’s your favorite dish currently on the Maple menu?
We just launched sushi, which has really changed my life. I love sushi, but when it comes to ordering for delivery, I’ve always felt I had to choose between spending enormous amounts of money or sacrificing on quality. We’ve spent a lot of time perfecting our offering, and it feels like a game-changer to be able to have rolls made with such high-quality ingredients at our price point. Beyond that, I love some of our “Standards” (menu items that don’t rotate) like our Thanksgiving Dinner. I’ve also been known to nurse a pint of “All Puffed Up” which is an exclusive ice cream flavor we developed in collaboration with Ample Hills Ice Cream in Brooklyn. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.