Homemade food marketplace Shef announced today it has raised $8.8 million in seed funding. The round included participation from Y Combinator, Craft Ventures, and M13 with participation from founders and executives from Instacart, TaskRabbit, StubHub, AngelList, Lyft, Airbnb, and Yelp.
Shef says that right now, it is focused on expanding its service, which is available in various regions around the U.S., to provide opportunities for chefs and other restaurant workers that are indefinitely out of a job because of COVID-19 and independent restaurant shutdowns. “Our mission has always been to help immigrants and refugees make a meaningful income. We’ve now expanded that mission to include feeding frontline healthcare workers and putting laid-off restaurant cooks back to work,” Shef cofounder Alvin Salehi said in a statement.
Salehi, a former White House tech advisor, and food entrepreneur Joey Grassia founded the service in 2018.
Via the Shef website, home chefs can post menus as well as designate which days of the week meals are available for delivery. All “shefs” undergo an application process as well as food safety certification training.
Shef said in today’s press release that it has about 4,000 applicants on its waitlist at the moment, and that the popularity of the service has “skyrocketed” since the start of the pandemic.
Meal-sharing marketplaces are a relatively new concept in the U.S., where they’ve only recently become legal. In California, where Shef is based, AB626 was signed into law in 2018. Glendale, CA-based DishDivvy offers a similar service via its mobile app, and NYC-based WoodSpoon has a marketplace connecting home chefs with consumers on the East Coast.
However, in other states, the practice of selling meals out of your own kitchen remains illegal, which makes these services spotty in terms of availability. Whether the shutdown of many restaurant dining rooms and the accompanying loss of jobs changes that remains to be seen.