Steph Chen, Anyday Founder, joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the benefits of microwave cooking.
JARED BLIKRE: Well, from cooking to the kitchen, that's about as good as a segue as I'm going to get here. We have Steph Chen, AnyDay founder. And we're going to talk about food and how to make microwave food maybe a little bit more palatable.
I got to tell you, I am an old fashioned guy. I still call it the science oven. And I use it for boiling water. That's about it. What can we do these things now?
STEPH CHEN: That's it? I assume you also use it for reheating too, right?
JARED BLIKRE: Yes, a little bit, yeah.
STEPH CHEN: A little bit, a little bit. Well, it turns out that the microwave is something that is an amazing appliance that, like you said, happens to be in basically everyone's kitchen. But people just don't know what you can do with it. And maybe the most surprising thing that you can do is that you can cook raw food from scratch. And it comes out delicious every time.
SEANA SMITH: So talk to us just about when you came up with this because you've worked with a number of well-known chefs. And people don't necessarily associate microwaves with gourmet cooking. So when you thought of this idea, I guess, what sparked it? And then also tell us about the lineup of products that you have to go along with the idea.
STEPH CHEN: Yeah, totally. It actually started as a total accident. What we had was just a prototype of a food storage container. And it was a unique food storage container. It had a glass body and a glass lid and a silicone rim right around it. And the silicone rim is important because it traps steam really nicely.
You can see in the photo there, that's a key to microwave cooking is trapping the steam. But we started totally as an accident. Initially, we were like, what else can we do with this food storage container besides store and reheat food? And so we put in raw chicken into the dish and put it in the microwave. And lo and behold, it came out. And it was juicy and tender and delicious and, really, the antithesis of everything that you would expect about cooking in the microwave.
And actually, from there, it sort of sparked an idea in our heads about, what is this thing about cooking from scratch in the microwave? And what we discovered through, honestly, a lot of internet research is that chefs and food writers and scientists have been touting the microwave and all of it's magic for years.
And I found out that Chef David Chang of Momofuku and Ugly Delicious, Marco Wittmann, Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats, all of these people have been saying for years that you can cook from scratch in the microwave. And that's everything from vegetables, basically steaming vegetables is great, making rice, making grains, and making fish and chicken are all really, really delicious.
And so we embarked on this path to see what this microwave cooking business was all about. And we discovered that there is a whole universe of things that you can cook in the microwave from scratch that people don't know about. And what you get is something that is really delicious and consistent every time
JARED BLIKRE: Well, I got to ask you because I'm listening to talk about this product. It sounds similar to the Instant Pot. I happen to own one. I've never used it. It sits under my sink, very snug and securely. What are the similarities and/or differences?
STEPH CHEN: Totally. So the biggest similarity is that both the Instant Pot and the AnyDay dishes are solving the same core problem of giving people more time back in their lives, right? You put some things in the AnyDay dish. You put it in the microwave. You add a couple of minutes. And you press Start. And then you can walk away from the kitchen and do whatever you want with that free time.
The Instant Pot is something similar as well. The difference is that the microwave is something that you already have in your kitchen. It's just an appliance that, basically, you're underutilizing. And so what we've created is a product that helps you maximize that magic of your microwave and helps you not just give you the product but also give you the know-how for actually how to cook in the microwave.
So on our website, cookanyday.com, we have all kinds of recipes like polenta. We have salmon. We have vegetables and also ingredient guides that help people figure out what their cook times are for different ingredients like asparagus, sugar snap peas, and all of that stuff.
SEANA SMITH: Hey, Steph, what's your distribution plan just in terms of getting your products onto more shelves? Have you been able to reach deals with any of those bigger retailers? Or what's your game plan for that?
STEPH CHEN: We actually have very consciously made the decision to start direct-to-consumer and stay direct-to-consumer for a little bit because part of the challenge of the microwave, as you guys might imagine, is lots of people have a lot of preconceived notions about it.
People know in general that it is really fast and really convenient. But they might have some preconceived notions about the health aspect, the safety aspect, and whether or not it is possible to make delicious food. And one of the benefits of staying direct-to-consumer is that you can really tell that story.
So for example, on the health piece, a lot of people think that, oh, maybe if I microwave something, I'm killing all the nutrients. And the reality is actually the complete polar opposite. So Harvard and Cornell have done studies that show that, when you microwave broccoli or when you microwave spinach, the resulting nutrients actually are greater in quantity than if you cooked it in any other cooking method, so boiling, steaming, frying, stir-frying. And that is surprising to a lot of people, the fact that you can put something in the microwave and have it preserve the maximum number of nutrients.
So that kind of story is hard to tell if we put this dish on a retail shelf. So direct-to-consumer both allows us to tell the story of what the microwave can do and what our dish specifically can do in the microwave. And it also helps pave the path for people to learn how to do it. So having recipes is really key. Educating consumers about how to cook in the microwave and what you can cook is really important to us.
JARED BLIKRE: Well, tasty food out of the microwave. I'm interested. I did learn something here today. So thank you, Steph Chen, AnyDay founder.