Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SpoonRocket Delivery Service Takes Flight

By Luke Tsai
Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 2:28 PM

You might call Anson Tsui and Steven Hsiao the kings of late-night food delivery for UC Berkeley and its immediate surroundings. Since the pair graduated from Cal in 2009, they’ve built up an impressive mini-empire, marketed under the Late Night Option brand name (tagline: “Your Late Night Delivery Food Court”). To their initial pho delivery service, Pho Me Now, Tsui and Hsiao have added businesses that specialize in burritos, rice bowls, and other convenience foods that appeal to hungry college students. All of the food is prepared, boxed up, and delivered — until 4 a.m. every night — out of a commercial kitchen in Berkeley.

Now, the ambitious young entrepreneurs are hoping to tap into a slightly older market demographic: young professionals who don’t have time to cook, but who might have more refined tastes. Their new company, SpoonRocket, offers gourmet meals — cooked by a chef with a fine-dining background — delivered to customers in Berkeley and Emeryville in ten minutes or less, via the website SpoonRocket.com or a corresponding smartphone app. The meals are currently $6 each, and Tsui said he intends to keep prices reasonable — no more than $10 for a complete meal.

From todays menu: a summer vegetable stack.
  • From today's menu: a summer vegetable stack.
The venture marks a big shift for Tsui and Hsiao, in that the food is a lot healthier. For instance, one of their other delivery services, Munchy Munchy Hippos, deals in such gut-busting specialties as deep-fried Oreo cookies and “Philly Nacho Cheese Steak Fries.” They also run a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Legion of SuperWings (1725 University Ave., Berkeley), that specializes in sauce-laden, deep-fried chicken wings.

“Part of us is like we’re selling all this really greasy food, and we want to change the way people eat,” Tsui told What the Fork. (That said, he and his partner aren’t planning on discontinuing their other, less-than-healthy delivery services.)

For SpoonRocket, there’s a rotating selection of two dishes available each day, one of which is always vegetarian. Recent offerings include spicy braised spare ribs served with a potato and yam gratin, and roasted eggplant and wild mushrooms in a phyllo crust.

Chef David Cramer's resume includes stints at San Francisco's Postrio and Jonesy's in Napa Valley. Cramer said the biggest challenge with SpoonRocket's quick-delivery approach is to create dishes that are interesting, flavor-wise, but that can be made in advance in large batches, and quickly reheated — to make sure that meats are cooked with enough moisture so that they don’t dry out, for instance. “There’s a lot of stuff I’d love to make, but I can’t,” he explained.

There's also a philanthropic component to the venture: According to Tsui, SpoonRocket has pledged to make a donation to the World Food Program for every meal purchased.

Tsui said SpoonRocket will eventually charge a $40 annual membership fee. For now, though, the company is offering free lifetime memberships. Current delivery hours run from 5 p.m. to midnight daily.

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