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August 2000

"GourmetStation.com - Log on. Dine in."

By Billy Newman

Like most dual income couples, Donna Lynes-Miller and her husband were too busy to cook. After spending her day overseeing research and development projects for a fast food corporation, Donna had no time left for shopping, chopping, and sautéing. Bored with eating at all the restaurants within walking distance and tired of opening the refrigerator door to find only a half empty jar of mayonnaise, Donna hired Patrick Menger, a personal chef. Every Monday, Patrick stuffed the Lynes-Miller's refrigerator with such delectables as marinated grilled tuna, black bean tamale pie, and crème brule - enough food for a week of dining. One January evening, after battling a two hour drive home through freezing rain, Donna and her husband sat down to two large bowls of Patrick's Creamy Sweet Potato Soup, a loaf of sour dough bread, and a bottle of Chianti. Almost in tears from the relief of dining with no shopping, no cooking, no parking, no waiting, and no tips, Donna realized that there was a great need for home delivery of gourmet dinners, a need waiting to be filled.

With the arrival of e-commerce, Donna presented to her employer her idea: provide gourmet meals ordered over the internet. Although her employer was supportive, they passed on the idea. Soon, Donna and Patrick were formulating GourmetStation.com. One of their first challenges was to devise a packaging system that would keep prepared dinners under forty degrees through overnight shipment. It took two years for them to find the solution: a smartly decorated box, laminated and lined with gold foil and Styrofoam insulation.

In sampling GourmetStation.com's service, I ordered dinner one afternoon. The next day, UPS delivered a corrugated cooler to my doorstep. The package sat outside for hours in a ninety five degree day, but when I got home and opened it up, everything was still cold. I pulled out my Southwestern, or "Baja" dinner for two: a chicken and tortilla soup; a bisque made with corn and green chilies; a center-cut pork chop smoked with fruit woods and stuffed with sausage, green chilies, and apples; and two grilled chicken breasts stuffed with roasted jalapenos, cheddar cheese, and pecans. Accompanying these entrees was a serving of beans, backed and spiked with chipotle peppers, a generous portion of rice with Southwestern veggies, and two green chile cheese tamales. Inside a waxed paper bag was a small loaf of partially baked sourdough bread dotted with pieces of black and green olives. A tantalizing Key lime cheesecake topped off the meal.

Napkins, after dinner coffee, and a floating candle came with the meal. Two color changing thermometers and some very simple instructions made heating a snap. In about forty minutes, I had spread out our gourmet dinner for two. Everything was excellent. The pork chop was more than my wife and I could handle after we had devoured the chicken, so I refrigerated it and snacked on it for the new few days. It was so addictive that I had that bellowed pork chop on my mind when I came home each night. We also tried a Parisian dinner with Salmon en Croute and Chicken Montrachet. This meal was another hit.

We found that the packaging could even be reused. My wife snatched up one of the boxes to contain some artifact of hers. I hope to keep the other for my next fishing trip.

Establishments with years of cooking experience prepare portions of these meals and ship them in subzero temperatures to GourmetStation.com. Taking the best meats from one chef and the best side dishes from another, GourmetStation.com arranges these elaborate meals in their immaculate facility. Donna and Patrick work closely with these chefs ensuring that only the best ingredients go into these dinners.

Orders must be placed over the internet. At this time, GourmetStation.com cannot accept orders placed by phone or fax. Each diner for two costs $49.99 and for $5.99 UPS delivers them overnight to places in Georgia, Alabama, the Florida panhandle, and parts of Tennessee and the Carolinas. Outside this zone, UPS delivers by air at an additional expense. Orders will be shipped Monday through Thursdays for delivery on Tuesday through Friday and may be safely refrigerated for up to three days after receipt.

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