Food delivery boxes are, undoubtedly, having a real moment. With promises to save you time and hassle, the ready-to-cook recipe kits have become the busy person’s answer to any culinary question. 
 
Well, Oma (short for Omakase – but more on that later) is the new kid on the block, but with a slight difference. The boxes each take the form of a cookery course from a different part of the world, replete with some essential store cupboard ingredients; a magazine, that features articles and stories from contributors with a connection to that part of the world; and, most importantly, access to a series of videos with a chef, teaching you the basic techniques to be able to cook that type of food. Oma’s boxes are not about saving time; instead, they are about rediscovering a love of, and interest in, the process of cooking. 

“What we really want the courses to do is give people enough of an understanding of the ingredients that they don’t have to rely on a recipe,” say Oma founders Hugo Lakin and Dave Reed. “We want to give people confidence in the kitchen. We like to think of the courses as everything you need to know to confidently get cooking a new type of food, new flavours, new ingredients.”


Despite neither having a strict background in food, not in the professional sense anyway, Hugo and Dave both describe themselves as  having ‘food running through their blood.’ They grew up with chefs, or people with that innate, can’t be taught ability to open the fridge and whip up a meal with whatever is going. Jealous of that ability, they launched Oma to try to bridge the gap, and help people head confidently for the kitchen. 


 

“The problem is that recipes are so readily available now, that we are losing the ability to cook without them. People don’t learn techniques or about flavours or ingredients as much as they follow a really prescriptive recipe. And we have lost the tradition of recipes and skills being passed down through generations.”
 
Oma is the opposite. What they aim to do is teach techniques and basic ingredients that can then be applied to a variety of different meals. “So many of our friends have become disillusioned with cooking, or they’re scared of it. Having to follow a recipe exactly stresses them out. We want to breathe the fun – and creativity – back into cooking.” They want to equip people with the tools to be able to rely on their own creativity, and start cooking for the love of it – not just necessity. 
 
And they want to move away from the absolute reliance on recipe following. “All the chefs we have spoken to say that a recipe should only ever be used as a guide, not necessarily followed exactly. There is room for creativity and experimenting in cooking.” 
 
Hugo and Dave both left their jobs in early 2020, with the aim of going into business together in the food industry. They spent lockdown developing ideas and working with chefs, who, for the most part, were left slightly short on work. Customers were becoming more adventurous. With restaurants closed, and the vast majority of other activities off the cards, home cooks became increasingly adventurous, and Oma aims to capture that adventurous spirit, long after lockdown has ended. “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of people turning to cooking at home as a way of socializing, and people want to learn new styles of cooking as a way of expanding their creativity.” 
 
At the moment, they have launched two courses – North Indian and Korean – with Malaysian and Mexican on the horizon, but they have no plans to stop there. “We are going to be launching a pantry soon, so that people can buy the store cupboard ingredients again, all in one place.” The chefs are helping with sourcing the ingredients, to ensure that those are they offering are of the highest quality. And they have plans to introduce the food of more countries too. 
 
So, what about the name? Well, Omakase is a Japanese term for a chef’s recommendation, although it literally translates to ‘I’ll leave it up to you.’ “It made sense for us, because we have chefs at the heart of everything we do, and the aim is to distill the confidence of chefs into a single process.” But it also reflects how the cooks at home can put their own stamp on it too, and there is room for creativity. 
 
“A couple of weeks after we launched, a couple of Dutch people reached out to us, saying, ‘Oh, Granny’s kitchen!” Dave says. “It turns out Oma is Dutch, and German, for Granny. Which, actually, kind of still works! We are a tech start-up meets Granny’s cooking.” 

Words by Rosily Roberts 

October 17, 2022