From Arcade, where dan dan noodles are summoned with a press of a button, to Caviar, which works exclusively with premium clients, to reliable standbys like Seamless, there’s become increasingly less reason for busy New Yorkers to relieve their ovens from shoe storage. And now there’s newcomer Umi, which actually eliminates the shame factor from takeout, by guaranteeing delivery of nutritionally balanced, piping hot, and literally home-cooked meals.
Arabic for “my mother” (the concept was inspired by the Lebanese feasts co-founder Khalil Tawil’s mom would send him, when he was stationed abroad in the army), Umi takes restaurants out of the equation completely, by connecting talented amateur cooks with a passion for food and a compelling story to tell, with individuals who crave stove-simmered suppers, with a decidedly personal touch.
“We wanted to start in a place where there were lots of families who care about putting good food on their dinner tables, and tremendous variation in the kinds of neighbors and home cooking stories we’d uncover,” said partner Hallie Meyer, of the decision to launch Umi in Brooklyn. “There’s an undeniably powerful sense of community in every single neighborhood, and a broader kind of Brooklyn identity that we hope to celebrate and to eventually become a part of.”
Currently operating from Greenpoint to Red Hook, the team recruited locals to run their own Umi kitchens, including Chef Jo Anne, who’s been cooking comforting Caribbean fare with her mother since she was 12 years old, to Chef Shalini, who actually used her own Kolkata-inspired dishes to help nurse her son back to health. Which means daily Umi offerings are every bit as diverse; upon downloading an iOS app, customers can view menus, scroll through ingredient lists and photos, and place orders for the week, selecting from options such as Chef Mark’s paleo coq au vin, Chef Ame’s ricotta cavatelli tossed with fava beans from her garden, and Chef Adrienne’s Turkish eggplant, accompanied by a slice of freshly baked bread, formed from a sourdough mother. And in addition to being coupled with a charming biography of their creator, each shipment arrives with a hand-scrawled note—reminiscent of the daily affirmations your mom used to tuck into your lunchbox.
“In a city where convenience is the name of the game and you can really get anything you want at any moment, no one in the delivery space has really captured the emotional connection that can make a meal taste that much better,” Meyer said. “A plate of gnocchi bolognese tastes good. But a plate of only 15 out there of hand rolled gnocchi, with a bolognese made from Chef Chris’s grandma’s recipe, plus roasted broccoli, plus homemade toffee candy, plus a hand written note? It’s our hope that knowing the face and story behind the exceedingly small-batch, no BS, truly made-with-love meals that are cooking in your neighbors kitchen will taste all the richer for it.”
Image via Umi’s Facebook