Fully cooked meals
Delivered fresh, not frozen
Expensive shipping to west of the Mississippi
Limited to 10 meals per week
No special dietary accommodation
Personal Chef To Go
Personal Chef To Go is a simple, lean, clean service, just like the meals it delivers. It offers a rotating menu of 12 single-serving meals—designed for microwave reheating—that it delivers fresh to subscribers on a weekly basis. You can order five, eight, or 10 meals per week, either by making your own selections or leaving it up to Personal Chef To Go based on your general preferences.
As meal delivery services go, it's pretty basic. In the end, it always comes down to the food, but that's especially true in this case. We tried Personal Chef To Go for a week to see if the service has that special sauce, or if it's just another overpriced microwave meal. Read on to find out.
How It Works: It Couldn't Be Simpler
Personal Chef To Go is very simple. You can get five meals per week for $78, eight meals per week for $118, or 10 meals for $138. The company says it offers free shipping to most states but this is a gross exaggeration; it offers free shipping to 25 states. The other 25 (west of the Mississippi) must pay a shipping fee of $45 per order.
Most weekly menus have 12 meal options, but we did see one week with only 11. The menu cycle also seems to repeat approximately every eight weeks. At least, that was the case with our week's menu: two months later, the same 12 meals appeared on the schedule.
That's pretty much all there is to it. There are no meal plans for alternative diets, few to no vegetarian options, and no extras like snacks, drinks, or breakfast.
Choosing Meals: Choose Yourself or Leave on Autopilot
You can choose meals yourself or let the service do it for you based on your preferences, which you can indicate in your account settings by selecting which of the eight ingredients you'd prefer to avoid. The foods you can avoid are fish, gluten, pork, shellfish, beef, soy, dairy, and tree nuts.
If you wish to make your own selections, the process is very straightforward. Simply click on the meal you'd like to receive and add it to your weekly order. There are no substitutions or portion size options to consider. Beyond making specific meal selections, the only other major consideration is the order deadline, which is 9 a.m. ET on Monday for delivery by Friday.
What We Made
We tried five different meals. In order to receive a representative sample, we included poultry, beef, and seafood, as well as the highest and lowest calorie options.
- Chicken breast stuffed with lump crab meat
- Chicken cacciatore
- Cilantro lime shrimp rice bowl
- Garlic sizzled fajita beef loin
- Southwest chicken salad
Support Materials: Just Microwave Instructions
Personal Chef To Go offers few support materials. Each meal has a label printed with ingredients, nutrition information, and microwave instructions; there's also an FAQ that you can access from the Contact Us page on the site. That's all the support material that we could find. The company's blog is seldom updated; its YouTube channel has a handful of videos that are several years old; and social media posts are limited to bland marketing content. There is one avenue we did not explore: getting on a mailing list that promises "nutrition tips, recipes, weekly menus & more." You can join the list by entering your email address at the bottom of the website.
Our meals shipped in a cardboard box with a recyclable insulating liner, two gel ice packs, and a couple of cardboard separators, a level of packaging in line with that utilized by similar services. The meal trays themselves are made from recyclable plastic sealed with plastic film, which may or may not be recyclable depending on the facilities in your local area.
The Cooking Process: Microwave for a Few Minutes
Peel back corner of the film...you know the drill. These instructions were adequate and suggested heating each meal in the microwave for two and a half to three minutes. Depending upon the wattage of your microwave, you might want to undershoot the given times to avoid overcooking the proteins.
Flavor, Freshness, and Quality: No Issues
There's a sameness that pervades the food from Personal Chef To Go. It arises, in our opinion, from the subtle flavor of garlic and powder xanthan gum—two ingredients that showed up in all of our meals, even the salad. The xanthan gum has a recognizable mouthfeel. It’s a thickener and coats the tongue. It’s almost—we hate to say it—slimy, like wet leaves. Together with the garlic and other seasonings in the sauces, this quality resonates persistently beneath the flavors of the main ingredients. It’s a touch insipid.
Freshness and quality were fine; we had no issues. The salad, which had the only truly “fresh” elements we received, was crisp and snappy. The proteins, considering they were all pre-cooked and microwave reheated, were surprisingly moist and tender. The baby carrots that accompanied the stuffed chicken breast were pleasantly al dente.
Nutritional Value: Company Is Transparent
The meals from Personal Chef To Go range from just under 300 calories to around 500. For an average example, the chicken breast stuffed with lump crab has 400 calories, 8g of fat, 45g of protein, and 12g of carbohydrate, 3g of which are sugars.
Many of the meals are relatively low carb, but a few of each week's selections include rice, orzo, and the like. For example, our chicken cacciatore came with brown rice, contributing to the 36g of total carbohydrate. A side note here: The brown rice had a yellow color, and did not taste like brown rice to us...but we'll take the company's word for it.
Personal Chef To Go Is Good For
If you live east of the Mississippi, and therefore qualify for free shipping, you might want to give Personal Chef To Go a try, just to see if you like the food. In our opinion, the competition is better, but we recognize that taste is subjective.
The xanthan gum has a recognizable mouthfeel, that, together with the garlic and other seasonings in the sauces, resonates underneath the flavors of the main ingredients.
Personal Chef To Go Is Not Good For
If you live west of the Mississippi, the $45 shipping charge will drastically diminish the value you'd likely get from Personal Chef To Go.
Personal Chef To Go offers no add-ons. The 12-meal weekly menu constitutes the entirety of the service.
Customer Service: Phone and Email
Customers can reach out to Personal Chef To Go via phone and email. The company says that it will respond to all inquiries within one business day. We emailed to cancel our subscription and received a courteous response about eight hours later.
Making Changes And Canceling: Watch the Deadline
You can make changes to your order and/or shipping address up until the Monday deadline. If an issue arises after the deadline but prior to delivery, you'll have to email support. Unlike many other meal delivery services, Personal Chef To Go does not currently allow you to skip multiple weeks in your delivery schedule or account settings. You can pause your subscription for a week, but you can't skip multiple weeks or pause your subscription indefinitely without emailing support.
Presently, you'll also have to email support if you want to cancel your service, although the customer service rep who handled our cancellation request stated that "very soon we will have a new shopping cart where you will be able to do this on your own." When you cancel, your subscription will be paused indefinitely but your account and information are retained. If you decide to order again, you can just log in and create a new order from your account page, rather than going through the signup process a second time.
The Competition: Personal Chef To Go vs. RealEats
Personal Chef To Go and RealEats both provide fresh, fully-prepped single-serving meals, but in many other respects, the services are vastly different. RealEats offers more in a few key areas. The company has a larger menu than Personal Chef To Go, with more than two dozen lunch/dinner options, plus breakfast, greens, soups, sides, a la carte proteins, sides, drinks, and snacks. RealEats also has a lower price point; its meals can cost as little as $10.99 each, while Personal Chef To Go starts at $13.80. On the other hand, RealEats has a smaller delivery area than Personal Chef To Go, fully servicing only 19 eastern states, and offering partial service to about 10 others. The company also charges for shipping, whereas Personal Chef To Go provides free shipping east of the Mississippi.
In terms of the food, the RealEats menu had higher calories on average than Personal Chef To Go. If calorie restriction is your priority, then Personal Chef To Go may be the better choice. Finally, neither service caters to restrictive diets. At best, both services include a token number of vegetarian dishes. Folks who eat keto, paleo, and vegan diets should look elsewhere.
It's probably clear by now that we were not terribly impressed with Personal Chef To Go. Its relatively high cost, limited menu, and generic, xanthan gum-coated food made us nostalgic for Snap Kitchen, BistroMD, and even Freshly. We don't want to be too harsh. If we were stuck with Personal Chef To Go, it's not that we'd be upset. It's just with so many higher-quality competitors in the marketplace, this personal chef will have to pack his knives and go find a different customer.
We spent numerous hours looking through 48 meal delivery services’ websites, ordered meals and cooked them at home, photographed the process, spoke with customer service representatives from the companies, filled out detailed surveys about each company and their meals, and wrote in-depth reviews and comparison articles. Our expert panel includes dieticians, chefs, and longtime food writers. The one thing they all have in common is their love and knowledge of food.
The criteria we used to evaluate each company included:
- The ordering process
- Meal selection
- Packaging and support materials
- The cooking process
- The flavor, freshness, and quality of each meal and ingredient
- Nutritional information
- Customer service
- Product Brand Personal Chef To Go
- Lowest Price per Serving $13.80
- Number Of Diets Served 1
- Number of Recipes 12
- Delivery Area 50 states
- Serving Sizes Available 1