Having a private chef, who caters to your every craving while keeping your waist in line, is no longer a privilege reserved for Hollywood’s elite. With a little help from the Uberfication of everything, there’s now a Cambridge-based startup that will let you arrange a chef to buy your groceries, come to your house, cook a week’s worth of meals for you and leave your kitchen pristine for a relatively low cost.
On Demand Chefs was founded by Tomasz Grzegorczyk and Malena Gonzalez, who are currently in the Executive MBA program at MIT Sloan. They launched the venture, which leverages algorithms to best suit users’ culinary preferences and nutritional needs, about two months ago and already have 50 content customers who come back each week to reserve a chef - from word-of-mouth alone. And they’re getting ready to ramp up more.
The beauty of On Demand Chefs comes not only from its convenience, but also from its flexibility. When you go to the venture’s website, you’re able to schedule a time for a chef to come to your house when it’s best for you. Add to the fact that you can ask for them to prepare you specific recipes, a general cuisine for which you have a hankering or a total surprise. Each time a chef comes, they will spend two-and-a-half hours preparing your meals, package them and label them with specific instructions including the best time to eat them.
Once you have the feel for the On Demand Chefs experience, you can set a regular time for your chef to come each week, taking almost all of the thinking out of your meal-planning.
Grzegorczyk said, “We have a lot of people who, the first time, go to website, interact with it and say, ‘I love it. Can I have it every Monday?’ For people as busy as our customers, it’s important for us to be as non-invasive as possible for them. The only part they have to think about is it not hard part: What do I want to eat this week?”
In some cases, their customers have already become so comfortable with the service that they’ve given their keys, allowing their weekly chefs to let come in and have all of the food prepped before they get home.
Now is probably a good time to talk about the venture’s vetting process. On Demand Chefs looks for professionally trained chefs and culinary students to cook their customers’ weekly meals. Through the recruiting process, the team personally meets with applicants and watches them complete a cooking trial, evaluating the finished products, as well as how they conduct themselves throughout the entire experience.
“We want to see if they cook, clean and leave the kitchen in better condition than how they found it,” Grzegorczyk stated. “It’s easy to see if they’re inclined to do that or if it’s not in their character.”
And, of course, they run multiple background checks on each chef applicant.
The startup’s baseline option has a weekly fee of $84.99. That will buy you 4 different meals that each serve up to 4 people, so it’s ideal for busy professionals with families. But if you’re a party of one, you’re really looking at 16 servings that you can enjoy throughout the week. And for the folks interested in an extra layer of convenience, On Demand Chefs also offers you the option of having your chef pick up the groceries needed to make your meals. It’ll cost you $99.99 (plus the cost of your grocery bill), which Grzegorczyk says could actually save you money in the long run.
He explained, “The chefs do the shopping and, because they’re more experienced, they know exactly how much to buy, so there’s less waste... It’s eco-friendly, but it also saves money because you don’t buy too much and then throw it away.”
The concept of an on-demand personal chef isn’t completely novel. For example, you may have heard about other local companies trying their shot in the same space, like Chefstro and Chef’d Up. However, those ventures have been focused on helping people cater small dinner parties. While Grzegorczyk and Gonzalez said you can book a chef to cook for a get-together if you want, their startup’s services are mainly dedicated to having a chef take care of your day-to-day meals.
“We’ve seen a lot of companies try this,” Gonzalez shared. “Even in the same company, there’ve been several movements to grab the right business model...No one player has had the right one.”
Unlike other kitchen-surfing startups, the On Demand Chefs team believes it’s nailed down the right model. They aren’t offering cookie-cutter services, and they maintain the personal touch on the customer side will get them far. Add that to the scientific approach to managing operations and the award-winning algorithms they’re implementing on the backend and the venture could be on to something.
“That’s where we have the competitive edge,” Gonzalez said.