Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take a cooking class but never followed through because of scheduling, fear of cooking in front of other people, or the plain fact that you didn’t want to leave the house.
In one fell swoop, Toronto-based The Chef and the Dish (C&D) eliminates all those excuses with its selection of video conference private cooking classes so you can learn on your own countertop.
The Chef and the Dish was launched two years ago by Jenn Nicken, a former Apple employee who wanted to bring that company’s seamless approach to technology and entertainment to the world of cooking.
“We video conference a chef into your home,” Nicken said, adding later “Our clients ask all the questions they want – and are given step-by-step coaching (and correcting!) – all without leaving their kitchen.”
The Chef and the Dish currently offers 35 cooking classes focusing on a range of cuisines (Italian, Japanese, American) and specific dishes (seafood pasta, gyoza, jambalaya). Each class is taught live by a qualified chef, runs anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. Classes are $299 for two people (in the same kitchen), and some classes go up to four people, with each additional person costing $50. Skype is the preferred method of delivery, but Nicken says that the service can use other technology if necessary.
Before the lesson actually happens, however, an assistant from The Chef and the Dish coordinates with the user to ensure that they have all the necessary ingredients and equipment. For more obscure ingredients, C&D will actually call around to local grocery stores to see who stocks them to help clients find what they need.
Paying almost $300 for a one-time cooking class is certainly a chunk of cheddar, but Nicken believes that the quality of instruction is a differentiator for her company. Instructors live where their dish originated, and there is a thorough vetting process to ensure that the chefs can teach as well as cook. Chefs on the C&D roster include Paul Then in Singapore, whose cooking has received two Michelin stars, as well as well-known Italian chef Daniela del Balzo.
And there is the combination of convenience and interaction. You don’t have to trudge out to a group cooking lesson, and unlike other online courses from famous chefs a la Masterclass, these aren’t just a library of static videos on demand.
In addition to the consumer product, The Chef and the Dish’s business model also includes branded content. For instance, the company recently partnered with Wüsthof to create an online class that helped promote the famous knife brand.
Right now, Nicken is the only employee of The Chef and the Dish, and the company has not taken any venture funding. She would not share any customer numbers with me, but said that people from across the globe have taken classes.
I asked Nicken if she was exploring partnerships with shoppable recipe companies such as Whisk to make the prep part a bit easier. While she said that was possible, she really wants their clients to venture out and explore their local grocery stores.
While cooking classes with real chefs could be a way to boost confidence for would-be chefs, the real question is whether they’ll be able to overcome the high sticker price.