Shef, a startup that enables home cooks to sell their food for delivery, announced today that it has raised a $20 million Series A round of funding. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from Craft Ventures, Y Combinator, Pioneer Fund, M13 and a bunch of celebrities including Padma Lakshmi, Tiffany Haddish, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, chef Aarón Sánchez and NBA player Andre Iguodala. This brings the total amount raised by Shef to $28.8 million.
Currently available in seven markets, including the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, and Austin, Shef’s online platform is a marketplace of independent cooks and chefs who either make meals out of their home or in a commercial kitchen. Shef has a rigorous application process that includes a food safety exam, food quality assessment, as well as standard sanitation practices such as hairnets and gloves.
Customers plug in their zip code on Shef’s website to peruse cuisine and cook options available in their area. Shef, however, doesn’t facilitate on-demand, hot food delivery. Meals must be ordered two days in advance and arrive cold for people to re-heat at home, so the service is more akin to a meal planning-type service. Since the cooks on Shef’s platform aren’t professional restauranteurs, this type of advanced ordering system allows them to better prepare inventories and schedules, rather than trying to anticipate demand on any given night. The advanced ordering also makes it easier for Shef to facilitate deliveries.
The legality of selling home cooked meals is still a bit of a grey area from state to state. In 2018, California signed AB-626 into law, making it legal to start a home-based food business in the state. Alvin Salehi, co-founder and co-CEO at Shef told me by video chat last week that there were 44 home cooking bills introduced during the last legistlative session across 29 different states. As part of today’s news, Shef also announced that it has hired Danielle Merida as its general counsel to collaborate with policy makers and advocate for the expansion of home cooking laws across the US.
The home cooking space has been relatively quiet since DishDivvy launched its service in California in 2018, but perhaps the pandemic will shift activity in the sector. The allure of the side hustle plus a reluctance to go back to an office could spur a wave of would-be cooking entrepreneurs to make meals out of their kitchen. Salehi said that the waitlist to be a cook on Shef swelled to more than 12,000 people.
Shef says that more than 85 percent of the cooks on its platform identify as a person of color. With its new funding, Shef will expand both the number of cooks on its platform, as well as the number of cities it serves.