Whenever I use a food or restaurant review app, I sometimes feel like I’m being overwhelmed with recommendations, and it can be hard to distinguish between recommendations and reviews that are trustworthy from those that aren’t. Chefs Feed offers an intriguing solution to that problem — offer recommendations from high-profile, professional chefs.
Chefs, after all, are presumably more knowledgeable about good food than your average Yelp reviewer, and they’re often looking to either build or maintain a relationship with fans. The app actually launched about a year ago, but today the company is unveiling version 2.0 of its iOS app, with updated social features.
Co-founders Steve and Jared Rivera (the CEO and CMO, respectively — and yes, they’re brothers) gave me a demo of the new app a couple of weeks ago, and also showed me the old one to illustrate the difference. The previous version of Chefs Feed was mostly limited to browsing food recommendations. The update, however, is much more social. You’re not just looking at dishes recommended by chefs, but you can also “follow” each chef to receive their updates — what they’re eating and also what’s new and unique at their own restaurants. Chefs Feed has also added social profiles for users, where they track dishes they’ve already eaten and build an itinerary of dishes that they want to try in the future.
There are now nearly 600 chefs in the system, the Riveras say, including the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller, Spago’s Wolfgang Puck, and Babbo’s Mario Batali. With the growing interest in celebrity chefs and chef culture, the Riveras say most chefs take intense pride in their profiles and recommendations. That should only increase with the new following feature. Version 2.0 makes it even easier for those chefs to add dishes to the system — instead of sending their recommendations to the Chefs Feed team, they can just post updates from the app itself (although the team is still fact-checking each update).
One thing I wondered about the model — it seems like a great idea in a city like New York, where there are lots of professional chefs who can add content to the system, but does it really work in other locations? Steve Rivera argues that even in cities with fewer chefs using the app, Chefs Feed still has something to offer. Austin, for example, has a relatively small number of dish recommendations (about 200), but Rivera says, “Two hundred dishes can keep users happy for a long time.”
He also admits that not every participating chef is as super-active, but he says the company can work with different levels of engagement. If some chefs want to add new dishes every day, well, the new app accommodates that. If others don’t have the time or inclination for that kind of activity, the company will still reach out every once in a while to ask for new recommendations.
As for making money, Steve Rivera says, “We think of this thing going into a media property, and we’re going to monetize all the traditional ways a media company would.” In fact, Chefs Feed seems to have a pretty good start on that front, having provided short video documentaries that were shown in Virgin America flights. There’s also a book and a pilot for a TV show in the works, the Riveras say.
You can download the Chefs Feed app here.