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January 28, 2011

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Housewives look online for chefs

HOUSEWIVES who don't want the hassle of preparing a Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve dinner and failed to secure a booking at local restaurants are going online to hire chefs - many unqualified - to cook at their homes.

These chefs can be booked at online stores offering professional cooking services on major e-commerce platforms. The vendor of one store, surnamed Yao, claimed the chefs were all five-star professionals from big restaurants who charge 288 yuan (US$34) for cooking each meal.

Households have to provide cooking materials, or purchase cooked meals from the online store, with prices ranging from 528 to 1088 yuan.

But Yao refused to show the qualifications of the chefs and no licenses were displayed on her online store.

Even so, the store's cooked meals are sold out and few chefs are still available.

Some customers were unconcerned about qualifications, in any case. "I don't care if they are really professionals. As long as they come and cook a half-decent dinner, then I appreciate their help," said a 28-year-old white-collar worker surnamed Luo.

Last year, Luo hired a chef to cook for her husband's family, as she admits she knows nothing about cooking.

But a Shanghai Food Industry Association official surnamed Xia warned residents to check the qualifications of the hired chefs to avoid food safety problems.

Meanwhile, more people have chosen to buy ready-meals and dine at home to celebrate the holiday, which starts next Wednesday.

This avoids busy restaurants, and may make for a cosy gathering at a time when prices are soaring, market watchers said.

Sales of ready-meals are up 20 percent from 2010, the Shanghai Commission of Commerce said.


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