Kitchensurfing, a virtual marketplace when you can find local chefs to come cook in your home, launches in Seattle today. Already in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Berlin, Kitchensurfing's goal is to eventually be in every major city.
Co-founder and CEO Chris Muscarella started out in the tech industry working at software companies. After a while he got sick of it, and followed the siren song so many in New York do, towards restaurant and food industry.
"I opened Rucola in Brooklyn," said Muscarella. "And contrary to what usually happens to restaurants in New York, this one actually worked out."
Muscarella started noticing how much time people were really spending in restaurants - out for drinks one night, then you've got date night, and pretty soon they were spending multiple nights a week out a restaurant, instead of home.
"You get tired of the whole restaurant scene," said Muscarella. "Ideas started kind of percolating in my brain about how to let people take more creative control of their time and food."
Finally, the idea of 'ordering out' chefs came to him. He and his partners were easily able to convince local chefs to sign on, as the top-earning Kitchensurfing chefs make about $100,000 - $200,000 a year, five to eight times what a restaurant chef makes.
The website and company is brilliantly simple. Log on, choose either a type of cuisine you're in the mood for, a specific chef you've heard good things about, or an occasion you'd like to bring a professional in to cook for.
"A lot of our chefs are trying to make ends meet before opening their own restaurants," said Muscarella. "And some of them are professional in-home personal chefs already."
While they officially recommend requesting a chef two weeks in advance, Kitchensurfing says they can usually accommodate most bookings with at least 72 hours notice. They even have a special Service and Logistics Team for that last minute, panicked occasion when you have less than 24 hours and need a chef ASAP.
Now on to pricing. Obviously hiring a personal chef to come cook at your home is going to be more than Chinese takeout - but don't grimace quiet yet! You can find meals on the site for the same price as dining out in a nice restaurant (think Crush or Art of the Table) . Each chef has their own pricing, usually based on ingredients, number of courses and - of course - their time. They price per head and off the number of people at the gathering, and all prices include ingredients, clean up and gratuity.
For example, if you're hiring a chef for an anniversary dinner (just the two of you), it's going to be more expensive per head than that same chef for the same amount of time, for a party of eight. If you're on a budget, they have a search engine of sorts where you can search based on number of people, cuisine and price point (under $40 per person, $40-$80 per person, and over $80 per person).
"We're really excited about being in Seattle," says Muscarella. "We were looking for a city that comes alive in the summertime, and Seattle fits that bill."
While Muscarella was coy about where we can find Kitchensurfing next - we're content to bask in being city #6 of what is sure to be a huge business.
Interested? Check them out for more info, and think twice next time you reach for that takeout menu.