If you love gadgets as much as we do at the Spoon, your kitchen counter space is at a premium. Sure, you may want to try that blowtorch or sous vide circulator, but a cooking gadget addiction can end up costing you a lot in terms of space and money.
Boston-based startup Cheffer is here to solve that problem. Started in December 2017, they let you rent kitchen gadgets for a small fee, much like Rent the Runway lets you rent high-end clothing for a fraction of the price.
Interested folk can peruse Cheffer’s online catalog of kitchen appliances, which runs the gamut from versatile equipment staples, like KitchenAids or Vitamixes, to more niche gadgets, like pizza stones or home beer brewing kits. Each tool on the list has been vetted by their in-house chef, so users know they’re getting the best possible brand and version. Once they make their selection, Cheffer will deliver the appliance — as long as they’re within 20 miles of the Boston area. For a small fee, users can request a chef to come into their home to help set up the gadget and give a lesson on how it works.
After their rental period is finished, someone from Cheffer will come pick up the appliance and take it back to their warehouse for a thorough cleaning before it can be rented again. If customers fall in love and decide that they want to keep their gadget, they can purchase it from Cheffer for a prorated fee, depending on how much they paid to rent it.
Most rental periods are three days and users pay a rental fee which varies depending on the gadget. For example, a KitchenAid would cost $15 per day, while a pizza stone would only be $7 per day.
Cheffer has ambitions to be a lot more than just a simple kitchen appliance rental service, however. “We try to focus on the experience of cooking rather than just renting,” said founder Lina Mamut.
A big part of that is Cheffer’s recipe component. The startup has a professional chef on staff to develop recipes that go along with each appliance. Immediately after customers book a gadget rental through the Cheffer catalog, they’ll get an email in their inbox with recipe suggestions based on their cooking skill level and dietary registrations — two fields they fill out during registration. So, for example, if you’re a novice cook that just became a vegan and you’re renting a sous vide circulator, Cheffer would send you relatively simple vegan recipes to make with that tool. As of now, they have a database of over 500 recipes.
Mamut told us that they’re also planning on developing an app that will focus more on cooking than appliance rental. It will most likely include tutorials instructing users how to best cook with their rented gadgets. Eventually, they hope to build in a recipe progression which will build in difficulty, teaching people basic cooking skills.
Mamut, who used to work at a tech startup in NYC that focused on AI and automation, is even playing around with the idea of a holographic chef that would walk users through recipes. (If you were at the Smart Kitchen Summit last year, this concept might sound familiar.)
She’s working on an algorithm to help streamline Cheffer’s operations. She’s currently gathering information on what times of day people rent gadgets, in which neighborhoods, and what kinds of dishes they’re cooking with them. Once they have enough, they’ll be able to better predict what type of recipes to develop, as well as which appliances to purchase for which markets.
It’s too soon to say for sure if Cheffer can achieve these lofty ambitions, but they’ve certainly come about at the right time. More millennials are cooking at home than any other generation. At the same time, as we discussed at our Future of Recipes food tech meetup, convenience is key. Cheffer’s concept is an easy, low-risk way for people to get a little more adventurous in the kitchen, without having to do anything more difficult than peruse an online catalog.
While some gadgets aren’t that pricey to straight-up buy (a small blowtorch will run you about $20 on Amazon), Cheffer is a good way to test out if you actually want to add it to your cooking arsenal before you commit. It’s also a helpful service for those with low kitchen confidence; by providing customized recipe suggestions and the option of having a chef demo each product, Cheffer doesn’t just drop off a gadget and leave you to it. Which also means it might not be the most helpful service for experienced home cooks who know which kitchen tools they want and how to use them.
Cheffer is bootstrapped and currently has 6 people on staff, including delivery drivers. They’re in the process of launching a prototype in Boston, but they’re planning to expand to NYC and other cities on the Eastern Seaboard by the end of 2018. I for one can’t wait until they make it to Seattle so I can finally indulge my inner kitchen gadget dilettante without breaking the bank.