I know a place where the girls outnumber the boys by about 12-to-1. With seemingly choreographed, almost robotic movements, they march precisely around the kitchen in crisp white aprons preparing family meals for dinner. Periodically, these gals pause briefly to lounge on Jetsons-style furniture, sipping pink lemonade.
You might think you’ve walked onto the set of The Stepford Wives III: Colorado City. In fact, you’re in The Girlfriend Zone. More specifically, you’re jammin’ with the gals at My Girlfriend’s Kitchen on Parley’s Way. Don’t be afraid; this is domestic life the way it ought to be.
My Girlfriend’s Kitchen is the brainchild of Marcia Hales and Jennifer Jackenthal, who originally ran a similar business from a home kitchen in Park City. Now they’ve expanded into franchises in North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, South Dakota and, of course, Utah, where it all began.
Theirs is a homegrown Utah venture, and it’s such a brilliant concept I wish I’d thunk of it. The basic premise behind My Girlfriend’s Kitchen sounds simple and enticing: Why not dirty up someone else’s kitchen and cookware instead of your own? But it’s a bit more complicated than that. As a customer'oops! I mean as a girlfriend'you get to prepare meals to take home in a professional-type kitchen. But here’s the cool part: You don’t have to do any food preparation. In fact, you don’t even cook anything. Nor do you have to shop for ingredients. For a fee, at My Girlfriend’s Kitchen you mostly assemble dinner entrees'usually from six to 12 different entrees, each of which serves at least 4-6 people. I made six family-size entrees at My Girlfriend’s Kitchen in less than two hours, and never even touched a knife, boiled water or washed a single pot or pan. Now that’s what I call cookin’!
Normally, My Girlfriend’s Kitchen customers choose either six or 12 items from a menu that changes monthly. Monthly menus usually list 12-14 different dishes, mostly entrees but also desserts. For example, the August menu at MGFK includes lemon chicken, tortellini tarantella, “Orange you glad pork chops,” bacon-wrapped lamb burgers, mocha brownie pie, “Mother Earth” baked tilapia, and eight or so more. Most “girlfriends” choose the 12-dinner package for $189, but MGFK also offers a “sampler” 6-dinner option for $109. For that matter, if you want to add a dinner or two or make a few less, the gals (plus Dan in the kitchen) will work out a customized package for you. And the dinners at My Girlfriend’s Kitchen are 100 percent guaranteed. If you decide you don’t like a recipe or for any reason you’re not satisfied, MGFK will refund or credit your money.
In each MGFK location'in Utah there’s Sugar House, Fort Union, Layton and South Jordan'the space is divided into different work stations, one station per entree. For example, I selected “Out of Africa Couscous” as part of my menu last week. At the station for that entrÃ©e, there was diced cooked turkey, cooked couscous, peaches, raisins, chicken broth, pecans, salt, olive oil, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. All I had to do was follow simple recipe instructions posted at the workstation, measuring out various ingredients according to the recipe. With most MGFK recipes, it’s just a matter of putting all the ingredients into a large Ziploc bag or freezer container (all of which are provided), freezing or refrigerating the meals at home, and cooking them according to simple instructions (usually baking or microwaving) provided as pre-printed, self-adhesive labels for each entrÃ©e. There’s no way even the most inept cook could mess this up. It’s literally easier than boiling water; my own girlfriend even pulled it off. Plus, owner Sherry Erickson and her crack team of professional “girlfriends” are there to help out, clean up, and provide advice. It’s foolproof.
Maybe because of that, the dishes at My Girlfriend’s Kitchen might not appeal so much to the hoity-toity gourmands in the audience. The couscous I made, for example, was terrific, but it obviously wouldn’t completely satisfy someone who insists on making couscous from scratch in the Moroccan manner. The recipes at MGFK, developed by Marcia Hales, are intended to win over both parents and kids'they are “family” dinners. And so the Creole shrimp and sausage jambalaya I made at My Girlfriend’s Kitchen didn’t quite have the spicy zing I’d have preferred. But, hey, no one says you have to follow the MGFK recipes to the letter. If you want a little extra cayenne in your jambalaya, by all means throw it in. You can also spice up or embellish your dishes once you get them home.
My Girlfriend’s Kitchen is marketed mostly as a money- and time-saving way to deal with family dinners: Spend a couple hours at MGFK and you walk out with entrees or dessert for a dozen family meals, which works out to about $3.15 per serving. But what they forget to tell you at MGFK is how much fun it is. Sure, there’s the time- and money-saving practical side. But it’s also a blast to get together a group, bring in a few bottles of wine, and turn an evening of food assembly into a party. It would be a fun “girls’ night out.” And for that matter, guys looking to meet gals could do a lot worse than at My Girlfriend’s Kitchen. After all, even if you don’t wind up with a girlfriend, you’ve got a couple of weeks’ worth of good eating out of the deal.