What Happens When You Combine a Smart Oven With a Meal Delivery Service
Combine a meal delivery service with a smart oven, and you get Tovala, a start-up seeking to rethink home cooking. The freshly made and delivered meals are crafted by Chef Alexander Plotkin (who worked at world-renowned restaurants Noma and Alinea). No specific programming or watchful eyes are required for the consumer. Instead, each package contains a barcode that when scanned activates the combi oven, automatically setting the specific temperatures and times. So the oven prepares the dish as it was intended by the chef. In roughly 15 minutes, the meal is fully cooked. All that's left to do is garnish the item with fresh citrus, sauces, or cheese, all of which are perfectly portioned. There's no chance of screwing up anything! "There's simply no way for our customers to mess up dinner," the press release says. While the oven is built for the Tovala meals, those who like to experiment with their cooking can control the oven settings (steam, bake, or broil) via a clean, beautifully designed app, which also features more technical recipes to try like baked chicken breasts.
Shipping to the public starting July 11, the Tovala ovens are now available at a presale rate of $369 (or $399 after the launch date), and meal subscriptions start at $36 a week (for three single-serving meals). I had a chance to try the oven out and have to say it's startlingly easy to work, and having tried many meal services, the food tastes good too. I tried the Sweet Corn & Mushroom Pasta (like a fancy mac and cheese with a golden-brown layer of cheese on top) as well as the Miso-Glazed Salmon (served with a rice pilaf and perfectly steamed/roasted broccoli). I licked both plates clean and could see myself craving both again. While this service is attractive to young professionals who want to eat well but lack the time and energy to cook homemade meals, cofounder David Rabie informed me that Tovala's really meant for anyone, including college students, parents, single people, and couples. Take a look at the oven, its features, and the food up close, and you may be convinced the Tovala is for you too.
How the Service Works
The Oven Up Close
As you can see, there aren't many buttons to fiddle with. Most of the control settings are done over the app. However, you do scan and press the round nob to begin the baking. Each oven fits up to six aluminum containers of food, and the Tovala dishes are designed to be baked simultaneously (i.e. the starches and vegetables are cooked alongside the protein).
Everything is recyclable and perfectly portioned, no measuring or lengthy prep work required. For this salmon dish, I spooned the sauce over the salmon and poured the oil-citrus vinaigrette on top of the broccoli before popping the two aluminum tray dishes into the oven.
While I'd probably eat the food right out of the aluminum dish, most Tovala customers prefer to plate the food, garnishing it with the remaining items like citrus slices.
The app lets you pick out the meals you want for the following week, monitor the cooking in the oven, control the oven settings, and view other recipes to be made in the Tovala oven.