The Walk-In Cookbook has opened at 72 7th Avenue, bringing an inventive concept to aspiring cooks in the neighborhood. The brainchild of Filip Nuytemans, the shop is exactly what it sounds like: a sort of interactive cookbook, in which customers can browse eighteen dinner recipes and shop for the pre-portioned ingredients to go with them.
The recipes– which line the wall in big and beautiful signs– range from $14-36, and include meals like beef tenderloin with potato risotto, a gorgonzola pear salad, fish tacos, green chicken curry, and more. Most of the necessary ingredients are included in that price (excluding some staples like oils, salt, butter, etc.) and can be found, pre-portioned, underneath each sign. The store also sells artisanal and local food products like granola, jams, chips, and McClure’s pickles. There is even a station for infused olive oils.
“We’re planning on changing [the recipes] seasonally,” Filip tells us. “As of now we just want to see how the eighteen recipes are going to go. We’re trying to see how our concept will play with the Park Slope crowd. It’s our very first store and we want to see– what do people like, what do we need to improve, what do we need to offer, what do we take out.”
All of the meals have been developed by Filip through his own experimentation with online recipes, and perfected through trial and error. And though cooking is now the basis of his livelihood, it’s a relatively recent passion.
“I’m actually a biological engineer,” he says. “I studied cellular and gene technology, but I left it behind way back and started working for the food company Nestle. I traveled around the world with them for about three years and I realized, I’m sick of all the restaurant food. I need to cook at home.”
He continues, “I wanted to have good, home-cooked meals and I wasn’t equipped to cook anything– apart from spaghetti, which was my college meal. And I was like, What will it take for me to cook? Someone needs to simplify it, because if I have to read through books, print out lists, go to the grocery stores, find all the ingredients, I’m never going to. So I tried to find a solution, and we came up with this concept.”
And the concept is a solid one, but what about its practical application? Can the Walk In Cookbook successfully guide a culinary novice through a homemade meal? Who better to test it out than a person whose sole use of her kitchen is wine and yogurt storage? I decided to give it a try.
I went with the tilapia tacos, which Filip recommended as one of his personal favorites. It’s a simple $22 dish for two made with cabbage, avocado, cilantro, jalapeño, and a pre-mixed spice packet. It also calls for vegetable oil and mayonnaise, neither of which are included in the pre-portioned packages, though they are available for separate purchase if you don’t already have them at home.
I spread the ingredients out, read through the recipe, and took a breath. People do this every night, right? I popped open some wine (not required, but definitely recommended) and went to work.
The recipe is simplified for sure, and perhaps even to its detriment. The six steps, aided by photographs, instruct the chef to cut up the fish, coat it in the spice mixture, and cook it in oil. For the garnish, we’re told to chop up the vegetables and mix with mayonnaise. It seems intuitive, but those of us who are really inexperienced could probably benefit from even more hand-holding. The quantities could stand to be more specific, for example; though most people will know how many tortillas to use, an entire onion is certainly too much for four tacos and I ended up overshooting. Then there are things like tools and procedure– I threw the oil and fish in a saucepan and hoped I was doing it right.
Still, the whole thing took fifteen minutes at the most, and ended in success.
I poured a little hot sauce on top and enjoyed, for the first time in who knows how long, a healthy and homemade meal. Is this the beginning of my bright culinary future? Perhaps. Regardless, I’m thinking about the wild mushroom risotto next.
The Walk In Cookbook is located at 72 7th Avenue, (646) 407-2267. Open 10 am – 9:30 pm Monday through Friday, 10 am – 8 pm Saturday, and 10 am – 7 pm Sunday.