Chef, a homemade food marketplace that enables cooks to sell meals in their local communities, announced today it has raised $8.8M in seed funding from investors including Y Combinator, Craft Ventures, and M13, as well as founders and executives from Instacart, TaskRabbit, StubHub, AngelList, Lyft, Airbnb, and Yelp.With 60% of restaurants impacted by COVID-19 no longer expected to reopen, many of the 11M people employed by independent restaurants in the US are out of work indefinitely. Shef is now expanding its service to help create opportunities for these individuals, many of whom do not have the resources necessary to launch their own restaurant businesses.
Founded in 2018 by Alvin Salehi (former White House Technology Advisor under President Obama and founder of Code.gov) and Joey Grassia (former Facebook employee and two-time food startup entrepreneur), Shef combines the convenience and variety of takeout with the quality, nutrition and freshness of a homemade meal. These types of businesses are being enabled by new home cooking laws such as California’s Homemade Food Operations Act.
“Our priority right now is to ease hardship, both for those in need of food and for those in need of opportunity,” said Salehi, whose parents are refugees and used to own a restaurant in California. “Our mission has always been to help immigrants and refugees make a meaningful income. We’ve now expanded that mission to include feeding frontline healthcare workers and putting laid-off restaurant cooks back to work.”
Shef’s service has skyrocketed in popularity since the start of the pandemic and has already served over 200,000 meals across the US. More than 4,000 applicants have now joined the waitlist to cook and sell food.
“Shef has uncovered a compelling opportunity to help people build their own businesses through home cooking,” said Jeff Fluhr, founder and former CEO of StubHub, now general partner at Craft Ventures. “Shef’s mission has become even more urgent because of the economic impact of COVID-19 and we are excited to support them as they expand to new markets: chefs across the nation will soon be able to prepare healthy and nutritious food for their communities.”
“I’ve been cooking with Shef for six months now and it’s allowed me to earn a reliable income at my own pace during a difficult time. What I love most is being able to positively contribute to my community, my neighbors and friends,” said Bay Area-based Shef Shereen Hassan-Aly. “Giving back is in my DNA and whenever I cook, I make extra ‘care packet meals’ and give them to individuals who are homeless or in need around the Bay Area or anywhere I go. It not only delights me to extend myself to my family and community, but also fulfills my purpose in life and it means everything to me. Shef has given me that gift.”
“Watching our parents’ journeys, Alvin and I saw firsthand how difficult it can be to start a life in a new country,” said co-founder Grassia. “We wanted to create a platform that offered the opportunity we wish our own parents could have had.”
Shef is currently available in various regions across the country. For more information about the service, or to become a chef on the platform, visit www.shef.com.