Last week, Cuchine, a marketplace for home-cooked meals, launched in Cole Valley and the Inner Sunset. The brainchild of Inner Sunset resident Mike Goldblatt and his co-founder, Babak Bafandeh, the new service allows busy locals to purchase homemade meals cooked by their neighbors for delivery or pick-up.
Goldblatt doesn't just want to build a viable business with Cuchine—he wants to strengthen ties between neighbors as well. He and Bafandeh chose to launch the company in his Inner Sunset backyard because "we wanted to start with a diverse neighborhood—ethnically, racially, economically ... we felt this diversity would result in a wide selection of cuisines and cooking styles."
Goldblatt and Bafandeh first met at a consulting firm, where they worked in marketing and growth strategy with food and beverage clients. Bafandeh, a globetrotting traveler, got the idea for the company from eating meals in locals' kitchens on his journeys.
"Babak believed there most certainly was amazing, authentic food being cooked in his neighbors’ kitchens, but he didn’t know of any medium to find these cooking artists, nor how to share meals with them," said Goldblatt, who had previously founded a CSA box subscription service in New York. Last October, the pair decided to start their company.
They're entering into a market full of options for those who'd prefer not to cook at home. According to a 2012 study, San Francisco has the highest restaurant density of any American city, with about 40 places to eat out for every 10,000 households. Combine that data point with the fact that San Franciscans eat out more frequently than New Yorkers, and it's easy to see why Cuchine and competitors like Feastly, EatWith and CookApp are all seeking a piece of the action.
Coq au riesling with pancetta and Brussels sprouts.
Cuchine lets customers choose their meals from a daily menu prepared by both amateur and professional chefs, each of whom undergoes "a thorough vetting process," said Goldblatt. To qualify, cooks must obtain a California food handler's certification, as well as submit an application that describes their experience. From there, Cuchine conducts an in-person taste test and "kitchen cleanliness and procedures review" before bringing on each new cook.
The company's site claims home cooks can "cook a few times per week to earn up to (and even more than) $500/week." By preparing extra portions of meals they're already cooking, Cuchine says cooks can reduce their personal food costs and "help build lasting bonds in the community."
At launch, the company will feature 10 neighborhood cooks. If things go well, they'll admit more cooks into their proverbial kitchen. Customers have the option of either picking up their meals directly from their maker or having them delivered by Cuchine. The company makes money by taking a percentage cut of each meal's cost; this week's menu ranges from $9.99 to $12.99 per meal.
Lamb and beef goulash with cornbread.
Although Cuchine only feeds Cole Valley and the Inner Sunset at the moment, "the response has been amazing so far," said Goldblatt. The company sold out of food on its first two days in business.
In a city where consumers embrace firms like Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, Goldblatt believes Cuchine is a natural (albeit unregulated) extension of the sharing economy.
"Technology has a tendency to insulate us from the outside world—particularly our neighbors," he said. "We think homemade food has a unique power to rebuild some of those lost connections."
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