Benjamin Griffith wants to put chefs back to work. With home cooking.
Griffith, a Reno resident and graduate of the university, is co-founder of Homebite, a website that matches people who want to hire a personal chef to prepare meals in their homes with local chefs who have signed up to provide that service.
The site is free for users and chefs to join, and chefs set their own prices, to which Homebite adds a service fee. The site launched Sept. 15 in Nevada, California and four other states.
It might seem odd (and it certainly seems brave) to debut, during a pandemic, a business whose model requires people to enter other people’s homes — and touch food.
At the same time, Griffith said, “the reason we launched right now is chefs need a source of income because so many are out of work. People also want some sense of normalcy — not necessarily to go to a restaurant but still having that dining out experience.”
RGJ Taste: How a 25-cent candy is keeping me sane during the coronavirus pandemic
And a privately prepared meal might cause fewer safety concerns, Griffith said, than restaurant takeout and delivery, where “you don’t know how many people are touching the food before it gets in the home.”
Recruiting chefs online and in person
Chefs apply to join Homebite, which conducts background checks and reviews professional experience and certifications, the company said in a statement. Homebite handles marketing and payments for the chefs.
The company also allows to chefs to pay for promotional ads; a chef store and online sommelier for wine pairings are planned to be added to Homebite.
To hire a chef, users (Homebite calls them “hosts”) indicate dates, size of party, cuisine desired and other information, and the app populates the results with chefs who match the criteria. Users also can directly contact chefs to settle details of the meal, including coronavirus safety practices.
Alexander Tash, Griffith’s business partner, lives in Kansas, Mo., and handles the technical side of Homebite.
Griffith, who has worked in restaurants and as a lobbyist at the Nevada Legislature, has been recruiting chefs through the website, social media outreach, online ads, and analog restaurant visits. Homebite will expand into other markets as chefs there come aboard.
See what others are reading in food near you:
The app was originally going to be called Om Nom, Griffith said, an onomatopoeic nod to enthusiastic eating.
“We actually got the name and sound from the Cookie Monster from ‘Sesame Street.’ It is the sound he makes when devouring cookies.”
Alas, another food company already held the federal trademark, so Homebite it was.
Griffith said Homebite is the third or fourth platform he and Tash have developed together.
Keep current on food and drink news through alerts, unlimited access to content and more with a Reno Gazette Journal digital subscription.
Download the RGJ app
Subscribe to The Reno Taste free newsletter right here.
Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: New app based in Reno matches folks with personal chefs for restaurant meals at home