Kitchensurfing Raises $3.5m Led by Union Square Ventures
I first heard about Kitchit, the Silicon Valley-based service that sends professional chefs into your home kitchen for dinner parties, just over a year ago, but have yet to try it. Now in the news: a similar service, New York City-based Kitchensurfing, recently announced a $3.5 million raise, lead by Union Square Ventures. The team is solid; CEO Chris Muscarella owns Brooklyn restaurant Rucola; President Ben Leventhal, is best known as co-founder of the eponymous food and restaurant news blog Eater.
Private home chefs are hardly a new concept; they’ve been staples in affluent home kitchens for centuries. Nor is the concept of bringing in hired help for a big event. What is new, and what I imagine perks the interest of investors, is the speed, ease, and precision at which trained chefs seeking extra work can be matched with customers eager to pay for a pro-style chef in their own home. The easy-to-navigate site allows users to navigate over 1,500 available chefs based on date, cuisine, size, even specific recipe. You can even vet potential menus — created specific to your taste and event — before booking. Pro chefs in private homes: the same allure as years ago, but now even easier. Sign me up!
Epicurious’ Smart Google+ Streaming Cooking Competition
Years after they began, televised cooking competitions are still having a moment. While networks have experimented with formats and rules, at the end of the day, it’s clear what we love: creative talent in the kitchen and outspoken, brutal honesty at the judges’ table. In a twist, online food giant Epicurious took the talent off of television and onto the Internet — in the form of a cooking competition held entirely via Google+ Hangouts On Air.
Dubbed “Elite Eat,” the competition featured a host and contestants going head-to-head in themed competitions featuring “classics” like pizza, tacos, and, for the finale, wings. Competitors cooked in their own home kitchens, directing their webcams to the stove and prep areas as they threw down to earn a winning title.
While the format seemed a bit wonky, the execution and idea is smart: webcams-plus-Internet access can bring you into anyone’s kitchen. And instead of the bland, how-to video of editorial sites past, this experiment shows how social software (like Google+) brings participants, competitors, even collaborators together to teach, learn, and experience all at the same time. I’m not sure how traffic numbers netted for Epicurious, but watching established media brands embrace new ideas makes for exciting video any day. Bonus points because food.
10 YEARS LATER
The wd~50 Family Tree
Today, Wylie Dufresne’s Lower East Side game-changer wd~50 celebrates its 10th anniversary. The pioneering restaurant, credited with popularizing molecular gastronomy, has had plenty of seasoned kitchen vets and up-and-comers pass through its kitchen. In honor of its anniversary, Grub Street’s Jordana Rothman created a thorough wd~50 family tree, displayed in a fun digital format. Hovering over a chef gives you a quick look at their history and contributions to the restaurant. And since it’s thorough, there are plenty of surprises. Did you know Jean-George Vongerichten is an original partner in the restaurant endeavor? And Momofuku Milk Bar’s celebrated head Christina Tosi worked pastry at wd~50 from 2004-2006. The technology is simple, but the result is useful and certainly interesting. Can someone please make me one of these to navigate the San Francisco restaurant scene?
Kitchen Thugs and Modern Farmers on the Internet
As our taste and understanding of modern food culture expands, so do the outlets serving niche audiences. This week, two new sites worth your time:
ThugKitchen: This mildly NSFW site combines irreverent and hilarious food “facts” written in colorful language. The accompanying recipes are real, and slightly more polite.
Modern Farmer: The online arm of this brand-new print publication targets actual modern farmers with tips on livestock, soil, tools, scientific advances, and more. It’s full of everything a farmer should know, but written in a smart tone that the casual food enthusiast will appreciate. Absolutely worth a look.
Tom Colicchio Says New Chefs Should Stay Off TV
Of course, the Top Chef head judge does have plenty of thoughts to back up this statement. During last week’s Food & Wine Best New Chefs celebration, he explained his position that young chefs shouldn’t go on TV, saying, “You have to stay home, you have to stay in your restaurants. A lot of these guys [have to] resist the temptation to go on tour and go to all these festivals and do the TV thing, and you [have to] stay home and take care of business first.”
Makes sense: TV production and the limelight that can come with it take up too much time outside of the kitchen. Thankfully, for those of us obsessed with our favorite culinary voices on the Internet, Tom doesn’t feel the same about Twitter.
In case you don’t “get” Grant Achatz’s Chicago restaurant Alinea, here’s a dramatic video intro, set to cello — Alinea