Want to Lunch Like Larry or Snack Like Sergey? Kitchit Launches the NetJets for Personal Chefs. (Video)
Imagine lifting the silver lid on a carefully prepared, elegantly plated and perfectly seasoned culinary masterpiece, only to realize … your dog is pawing at your leg, begging for a bite.
That experience, or something like it, is precisely what the new start-up Kitchit is trying to bring to its users’ homes.
Launching today, in invite-only beta, the Web service allows anyone with a credit card to book a top-tier chef to prepare the meal at their next dinner party.
The company, which was part of Stanford’s StartX incubator program, just finished raising a seed round of funding. The value of the round is undisclosed, but it counts super-angel Dave McClure among the early investors.
The three founders — CEO Brendan Marshall, CTO George Tang and Chief of Product Ian Ferguson — came together months ago to build a business around the idea of “democratizing fine dining,” said Marshall.
Buzzwords aside, Kitchit is opening up what was a previously gray market of transactions made by foodie insiders — or people who happened to have the connections necessary to find chefs who were looking to make extra money cooking outside the confines of their primary jobs at high-end restaurants.
With Kitchit, even a fish-stick aficionado can arrange for such a meal.
It’s the exact same kind of hidden economy that companies like Airbnb have built a business on disrupting.
But what does this new opportunity mean for the user/eater?
Potential diners visit Kitchit.com and pick from a stable of preapproved chefs — about 40 at last count — who will prepare their haute cuisine in the client’s home for any number of guests.
Kitchit takes care of billing, scheduling and making the connection with the chef, taking a cut of the payment.
The end result, said Ferguson, is “a five-star meal cooked for you and your guests in your home, for less than you would pay in a restaurant.”
And while the prices fluctuate with the cost of ingredients and demands of individual chefs, Ferguson’s math does seem to hold, even if it doesn’t promise an enormous bargain.
He explained that the average per-plate cost of a Kitchit dinner party is somewhere between $50 and $100.
Still, being able to eat at home and drink wine without a restaurant’s precious liquor markup must mean some savings, right?
While it’s tempting to draw an immediate correlation between Kitchit and a company such as Airbnb, CEO Marshall insisted the two were after different markets.
“We’re really more like NetJets for now,” he said.
Beyond the initial focus on high-end dining, Kitchit faces some sobering costs of scaling that Airbnb doesn’t.
For one, the cost of onboarding new chefs is high.
Ferguson noted that many chefs “don’t do a great job of writing their own bios, and few have enough high-quality photos of dishes they’ve prepared — but that’s also exactly why Kitchit can succeed.”
Kitchit, in a sense, has to serve two masters, at least according to Ferguson.
“Our chefs need to see value in using Kitchit, as well,” he said. “It has to make their lives easier, and make it possible for them to make extra money more reliably than other methods.”
And while the eating public never sees it, Kitchit provides a management interface and a host of other services to chefs who book events using the platform.
Kitchit has also started negotiating bulk deals on certain expensive ingredients, such as caviar, so that it can drive the cost of dinner parties down further.
As for what’s next, its founders said the company will spend its time and money growing the stable of chefs and expanding to other markets.
That’s in addition to plenty of “delicious business development meetings,” said Ferguson.
The trio of well-fed founders recently sat down for a fairly lengthy video chat about the launch of Kitchit and the difficulties of building a tech business that sells such an analog service: