How CookUnity Brings The Best Chefs In The World To Your Kitchen Table (2023)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants across the country encountered a situation that they never imagined. But thanks to the CookUnity, chefs were able to turn to a new platform to get their recipes and food onto kitchen tables across the country. And for many of them, they have found a new source of revenue that allows them to reach more people than they ever thought possible. I sat down with Mateo Marietti, CEO & Founder of CookUnity, to learn more about what inspired him to launch CookUnity, how they attracted chefs to the platform, and why they decided to rebrand recently.

Dave Knox: What is the founding story of CookUnity?

Mateo Marietti: The idea to build CookUnity started not necessarily connected to the mechanics of how we do it today, but the longer term and the bigger vision of building a platform that in our view does not exist today. A platform that does exist in other categories like music or videos, but does not exist for food where all consumers can find the best creators, the best chefs, the makers of the food that we all admire and appreciate and enjoy in a way that has much more accessibility.

Restaurants are an amazing way to do that, but are very restrictive to your neighborhood. And for the creator, for the chef, they can only cook for 100 - 200 people a day. So we're thinking, "What will it look like a more modern experience where all the chefs have a much more robust infrastructure where they can just focus on what they love to do, which is cooking amazing food, building teams that are proud of that food, and the relationship with their fans?" And that was idea behind CookUnity. Food is one of the most exciting cultural experiences that we have as humans. It's also very important for nutrition. And because of that, we believe that the future food is highly personalized and very experiential. That was the original inspiration for CookUnity. And it also how we viewed our opportunity to differentiate vs other meal delivery services on the market

Knox: How have the chefs become partners for what you're doing, and how are you enabling their own entrepreneurial journeys through CookUnity?

Marietti: Our intention is to build a more horizontal model that provides everything chefs desire. Cooking is a unique craftsmanship that requires creativity and artisanal production. However, many chefs do not enjoy or know how to manage other aspects of running a restaurant, such as accounting, permitting, or dealing with construction. Our goal is to create a rich ecosystem that provides everything chefs need to become successful entrepreneurs. For those already on their entrepreneurial journey, we will help accelerate their growth.

(Video) HOW COOKUNITY BRINGS THE WORLDS BEST CHEFS TO YOUR KITCHEN TABLE

We started with one facility in New York City where young chefs have the opportunity to bring their teams and cook their dishes on a larger scale while we provide everything they need. However, in the past year and a half, we have built six additional kitchens around the country. New York chefs are expanding to different cities, and chefs from cities like L.A., Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, and Seattle are expanding to New York and vice versa. Our ecosystem allows any talented and passionate chef to become an entrepreneur and have access to everything they need to succeed.

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Knox: How does the process work when a consumer purchases a meal? Is the chef overseeing a team just like in their own restaurant?

Marietti: We want to be true to the spirit of the original insight and the original idea. We want to empower the best chefs. We want to massively increase their access and their scale. So that means that we'll never attempt to change their preferred process or the way they do things. At the center of that is food, and I will say very adjacent to that, building their teams. These are real businesses; these are real teams. You go to restaurant you love and you go often there, there's a lot of work and thought and passion behind that. They don't just hire random cooks, they hire cooks that they love, that they know about cuisine, and they train them. They make a great culture out of that, and that's very important. So probably a great visualization exercise is imagine a large kitchen divided in smaller kitchens. For example, our New York kitchen is more than 60, 000 square feet and there are 45 chef teams working there. So it's like they're all neighbors to each other. Each one of them has their own individual kitchen, but they share resources. We provide ingredients there and we can consolidate all the different recipes. So in New York we have 45 chefs on the platform at the moment. The number is always growing as we onboard more subscribers to the platform. And those 45 chef teams are offering collectively more than 400 different recipes on any given week. So it's like a giant neighborhood of amazing restaurants but delivered to your door.

Knox: Related to that, you have some really big names in the culinary world on your roster. How'd that happen? Did you approach them? Did they approach you? What was the relationship there?

Marietti: We like to be very realistic with how it happened and honor that because it was a special moment for everyone that was during the pandemic. Imagine CookUnity first quarter, 2020. We were in our second year. We just raised our first round of funding at the end of 2019, so it was pretty significant for us, but still relatively low capital. We had one kitchen in New York, just getting started. And we were approaching some of the best chefs in the city and telling them about this model. They were reacting favorably like, "Oh, that's very interesting. I thought about that for X, Y, and Z, and it could be good for my brand and exposure and this and that." But when the pandemic hit, the main effect that we saw in our business wasn't on the customer side as we were a very small company and we didn't have a lot of advertising dollars at play back then. But the big impact was on those conversations with some of the best chefs in the city, the chefs that customers love and that we admire, that they went from, "Oh, maybe let's consider this next year," to, "I'm ready to try it now."

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And then we had ten of the most renowned chefs in the city join the platform and they did well, and customers love getting their meals delivered, not only to the city but the suburbs, or other cities in the region. Chefs were being more open and they had more time to try new things. And even more importantly, CookUnity resonated with them because most chefs that I met in my career have expressed a version of, "I would love to cook for more people but I don't know how." It's really hard to do that through the restaurant. The restaurant is not designed for that. It's designed for eating out, from the delightful in-person experience. So that resonated with chefs on top of what is a really meaningful and in some cases unprecedented income source being on CookUnity. We have more than 20% of our chefs in the platform that make more than a $1,000,000 in profit per year today. And restaurants are not always easy. Margins are not always easy to get, and get consistently. So it's great that they can compliment the restaurants with us.

Knox: That sort of earning potential is amazing in any industry. How does that compare to what a chef would earn on their own?

Marietti: A restaurant that does fairly well feeds around 200 people per day. We have chefs in the platform that are feeding thousands per day and in different regions. So that already is a difference there. Let's say a restaurant that does well may do $3 - $5 million in revenue per year and margins can be anywhere between slightly negative to 5 - 10%. There's obviously a different level of complexity. You have front of the house, back of the house, it's a full business you need to run. We try to help with everything that is not cooking and the relationship with our team. So we help with technology, with logistics, with marketing, with packaging and things like that. The good news is that these things are not exclusive. The use case of the restaurant is a use case that has existed for centuries and most people not only agree that it will exist for more centuries, but we will do our very best to be a friend and an ally of the restaurant industry. I think society needs restaurants. We need a place to stop in the middle of the day to go disconnect, connect, recharge, enjoy. We have many values, but our core brand value is connection. And we think that food is one of the best way to connect people and to connect different parts of our industry and we just want to be an ally. We think that CookUnity and the specific use case of people cooking less at home, that is a problem that CookUnity is trying to solve today. We are more of a replacement for groceries and a perfect complement to running a restaurant.

Knox: And so right now CookUnity is about to go through a rebrand of the business. What inspired that change, and what are you hoping to accomplish coming out of that?

Marietti: The rebranding process started as an internal exercise for CookUnity. Over the last two years, we have experienced significant growth, expanding our team from 40-50 members to over 200, and increasing our chef partners from 20-something to 100-plus. As a result, there were many key people within our internal ecosystem who understood what CookUnity was about but may not have had the opportunity to engage with the founding members and participate in conversations and dinners together. Scaling and expanding to different geographies made it difficult to replicate the same playbook for building culture and onboarding chefs as we did in the beginning.

Therefore, the rebranding process began as a way to fully express our vision and uniqueness in all touchpoints and relationships. We did an end-to-end redesign and review of all touchpoints to ensure we were communicating our vision, mission, purpose, positioning, brand, and values effectively. While our foundational definitions remained the same, we made minor adjustments to how we express and communicate them to internal stakeholders and the world outside.

Our goal is to tell our story to millions of people, especially busy individuals who are competing for attention. We want to resonate with them, touch their nerves, and deliver an interesting, crisp message. Our dream is to become the primary or one of the main platforms for food. We are now finalizing this exercise, ensuring that we tell our story in a way that reflects our vision and resonates with our audience.

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Knox: So beyond the rebrand, what else do you have in store for 2023?

Marietti: In 2021 and part of 2022, our focus was on expanding geographically. We went from serving the Northeast to nationwide coverage, which allowed existing chefs to expand their reach and new chefs to join our platform. This expansion also allowed customers who move to continue being part of the CookUnity family and enabled new customers to join us and explore our food solutions. Our subscription model has been working well, and we will continue to expand to other cities in the US and abroad. However, our main priority for the next year is to start expanding into new types of sellers and food products.

Currently, we've been working on building CookUnity 1.0, which is a meal subscription service of proper meals. We offer hundreds of options with a growing assortment, providing high-quality meals at a reasonable price. Our meals are restaurant quality, but delivered to your doorstep, prepared by real chefs. By choosing CookUnity, you'll be supporting these creators that you admire. We plan to start launching other types of food products, including sauces, family-sized portions, breakfast, desserts, and cooking classes, and all sorts of physical and digital culinary experiences. We will use the same kitchen infrastructure and technology that we have already built to expand our offerings. Our goal is to provide our customers with a diverse range of food products and experiences that cater to their unique tastes and preferences.

FAQs

What are three important qualities that chefs and head cooks need? ›

Chefs and head cooks need agility to handle knives properly for cutting, chopping, and dicing. Leadership skills. Chefs and head cooks must be able to motivate kitchen staff and to develop constructive and cooperative working relationships. Physical stamina.

How become one of the best chefs in the world? ›

You can either take a course at a reputed culinary school, learn the basics, join the industry and work your way up the ladder; become a Commi 3, Commi 2, Commi 1, working at the different kitchen stations, then moving on to first junior then senior chef de partie.

What is the full saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? ›

There is an old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. It is not only in the well-known proverb, but also in this present instance, that too many cooks spoil the broth.

What is the saying about chefs in the kitchen? ›

There may be “too many cooks in the kitchen” when members of a team or a group of employees from different departments are having difficulty working on a project together. You may also hear someone use this expression to describea team that has too many people contributing conflicting ideas to a project.

What are the most important cooking skills? ›

These skill sets may seem simple; however, the perfection of these culinary techniques is what makes or breaks a dish.
...
  1. Knife Skills. ...
  2. Making the Perfect Stock.
  3. Mastering the Five Mother Sauces. ...
  4. Becoming an Egg Expert. ...
  5. Meat, Poultry & Fish. ...
  6. Vegetable Sanitation.
  7. Kneading the Dough.

What makes a chef successful? ›

The chef must be exceptional at what he or she does: a great cook, a balanced manager, an inspiring leader, and a consummate communicator. A person cannot possibly hold the position of chef (earned title) without owning these skills and attributes. In the end, the food is all about flavour.

What does it take to be a successful chef? ›

In order to be a successful chef you will also need solid grounding, and a good foundation, so that you acquire the fundamental techniques, and are able to adapt to different working environments. This comes with training at either a culinary school, or a modern restaurant.

How can I become the best cook? ›

Simple Ways To Become A Better Cook
  1. Go on a flavor safari and use different herbs and spices. ...
  2. Seasonings are great to incorporate, but don't forget to properly season food with salt and pepper!
  3. Keep kitchen knives sharp so they easily cut through ingredients.
  4. Keep a tidy kitchen space to make cooking a smoother process.
May 8, 2022

What is the number one rule in the kitchen? ›

Thoroughly cook foods

One of the most important food hygiene rules is to ensure food is cooked properly. If undercooked, harmful bacteria could lead to food poisoning. These rules will help you avoid that: Cut into the food to check that it is cooked through.

What is the common mistake in the restaurant kitchen? ›

Improper Hand Hygiene

As basic as hand hygiene is, this is the foundation for food safety in any kitchen. And unfortunately, it's still a prevalent problem in kitchens everywhere. However, with the right training and awareness, it's also an easy mistake to fix quickly.

What is the number one rule in any kitchen? ›

1. Wash your hands well and often. Washing your hands well and often is the golden rule of food safety. Your hands are full of bacteria, and you pick up new bacteria every time you touch something.

How do you encourage a chef? ›

Rewards build goodwill among employees, and showing your kitchen staff that you're not afraid to have a good time with them will help keep your best workers around. Reward cooks who excel at their stations with raises and by allowing them to work on more advanced parts of the line.

What do you call it when a chef cooks in front of you? ›

Teppanyaki grills are found in many Japanese restaurants as long, flat grills around which guests are seated. The chefs grill the food that is ordered in front of the guests, wowing them with their culinary talents and excellent knife skills.

How do you appreciate a chef? ›

How To Appreciate A Good Cook?
  1. By appreciating him/her for the food he/she has presented you.
  2. Writing a letter showcasing your gratefulness towards the cook.
  3. Acknowledging the dedication with which he/she prepares her dishes.
  4. Let him/her know how lip-smacking and succulent every dish was.

What are 3 things a chef needs? ›

5 Things Every Chef Should Have in Their Kitchen
  • A Great Knife. Most chefs would agree that the number one item a good cook needs is a great knife. ...
  • A Good (Large) Cutting Board. ...
  • Mixing Bowls and Measuring Cups. ...
  • High-Quality Cookware. ...
  • Hand Mixer or Blender/Food Processor.
May 2, 2022

What is the most important thing to remember in cooking? ›

Memorize these tips and I guarantee your next meal will be a smashing success.
  • Read the whole recipe first. ...
  • Set up mise en place. ...
  • Always sharpen knives. ...
  • Seasoning well and often. ...
  • Get a salad spinner. ...
  • Roll citrus to get more juice out. ...
  • Use the right pans. ...
  • Dry meats, legumes, and vegetables before cooking them.
Jan 14, 2019

Why is cooking a life skill? ›

Importance of cooking skills

Cooking is a valuable life skill which is often linked with improved diet quality, such as improving the uptake of fruit and vegetables and an increased recognition of healthier foods [1, 2].

What is the special skills in cooking? ›

What skills do cooks need?
  • Food safety. In most cases, it's the role of cooks to check that the food they prepare is safe for consumption. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Commitment to quality. ...
  • Cleanliness. ...
  • Multitasking. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Attention to detail. ...
  • Ability to accept criticism.
Jan 27, 2023

What are the values of a chef? ›

The 7 Remarkably Powerful Core Values of a Chef
  • Passion. "Passion was the first of my 'core values. ...
  • Harmony. "In the restaurant business, everyone has to work together. ...
  • Humility. "We don't take ourselves too seriously. ...
  • Imagination. "We like to have fun! ...
  • Caring. ...
  • Courage. ...
  • Ownership.

Why it is important to be a good chef? ›

Chef is the star of the restaurant, so it can attract more customers, but if you are unsuccessful with choosing, your business might be ruined. The chef cook is the person, who organizes all the work in the restaurant kitchen, and he is also the link between the owner of the restaurant and the rest of the employees.

What are the 5 basic cooking skills? ›

THE FIVE SKILLS THAT EVERY COOK NEEDS TO KNOW
  • KNIFE SKILLS. Whether you are chopping a carrot or fresh herbs, a basic understanding of culinary knife skills should be the first thing you master in the kitchen. ...
  • SAUTEEING. ...
  • ROASTING. ...
  • BLANCHING. ...
  • EMULSIFICATION.
Jun 5, 2017

How do you cook like a professional? ›

Learn to Cook Like a Professional Chef with these 8 Essential Skills
  1. Get the Right Kitchen Tools. ...
  2. Keep Your Knives Sharp. ...
  3. Create a Cooking Notebook. ...
  4. Prep Everything. ...
  5. Waste Not, Want Not. ...
  6. Keep It Clean. ...
  7. Learn How to Disassemble a Whole Chicken. ...
  8. Master the Fine Art of Eggs.
Sep 27, 2020

Is being a good cook a skill? ›

Being able to cook a healthy, affordable meal is a key adulting skill. It can seem scary at first, but you don't need to master a soufflé right off the bat. Instead, start with easy, affordable recipes and build on your skills.

What are the 3 basic rules of kitchen safety? ›

When it comes to kitchen safety rules, here are a few quick tips to adhere to:
  • Always wear shoes. ...
  • Wear safe clothing. ...
  • Avoid burns. ...
  • Don't forget to wash your hands. ...
  • Use different chopping boards for raw meat, fruits, and vegetables. ...
  • Handle hot dishes with care. ...
  • Have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it.
May 15, 2020

What are the 3 most common accidents in the kitchen? ›

The most common injuries are burns, fires and lacerations. With these resourceful tips, you will have a safe and hopefully, delicious holiday in and out of the kitchen.

What is the most common restaurant violation? ›

What are the most common health code violations?
  • Cross-contamination.
  • Food temperature.
  • Poor personal hygiene.
  • Improper storage of food.
  • Chemical use and storage.
  • Improper storage of utensils and dishes.
  • Inadequate kitchen sanitation.
Oct 13, 2021

What is the most important position in the kitchen? ›

Head Chef (Chef de Cuisine)

The head chef remains at the top of the hierarchy in restaurant kitchens without an executive chef. Like an executive chef, this person controls all aspects of the kitchen. They are responsible for creating menus, controlling kitchen costs, and managing the kitchen staff.

What are the 7 important things to keep food safe? ›

Summary
  • Keep high-risk food at 5 °C or below or above 60 °C to avoid the temperature danger zone and food poisoning.
  • Store raw foods below cooked foods.
  • Store food in suitable, covered containers.
  • Avoid refreezing thawed foods.
  • Check and observe the use-by dates on food products.
  • Take special care with high-risk foods.

What five ingredients do you always have in your kitchen? ›

If you're new to the kitchen, all you need is a handful of wholesome ingredients to get you started.
...
The 5 Ingredients You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen
  • Eggs. ...
  • Extra-virgin olive oil. ...
  • Fruit and vegetables. ...
  • Organic meat. ...
  • Salt.
Feb 7, 2017

What motivates you chef answer? ›

Why do you want to be a chef? “I want to be a chef because I get a buzz from working in a busy environment where I have creative control, where I get to work alongside other passionate and talented people, and where I can really express myself in a job that I love.

How do you motivate people in the kitchen? ›

The secret to success in any business is to keep your staff happy and motivated.
...
Motivating Your Kitchen in Six Steps: Getting Team Buy In
  1. Create a Compelling Vision. ...
  2. Reward Risk Takers. ...
  3. Show Selfless Leadership. ...
  4. Growth. ...
  5. Fairness. ...
  6. Autonomy & Empowerment.
May 25, 2018

What is a good sentence for chef? ›

Example Sentences

He's the head chef at a five-star restaurant. a celebrity chef with her own TV show My friend is an excellent chef.

What is a good chef called? ›

Executive Chef (Chef de Cuisine)

Also known as a head chef or a master chef, an executive chef is the overall kitchen boss. This position is the pinnacle of any chef career.

What is it called when you cook your own food at the table? ›

Cook-it-yourself restaurants are not passive experiences; they're interactive and communal. For many, the social aspect is the appeal. Groups of friends sit around a hot pot or a grill in the middle of the table as they drink, eat and chat.

What are professional cooks called? ›

A chef is a professional cook and tradesman who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation, often focusing on a particular cuisine.

What is the highest compliment you can give a chef? ›

When it comes to cooking, there's no greater compliment a chef or restaurant owner can receive than a satisfied customer. For chefs and restaurant owners, a customer's appreciation for their food is the highest form of praise.

What do you say when someone compliments your cooking? ›

How you accept it: “Thank you so much! You know I've tried to tackle this for a while. I'm so glad you like it.” And if the recipe isn't a secret, you can add, “Let me know if you want the recipe.”

How do you thank someone for amazing food? ›

That kind of heartfelt gesture deserves a sincere expression of gratitude.
  1. Bring a host or hostess gift.
  2. Bring something to enhance the meal.
  3. Say thank you.
  4. Make a handmade thank-you note.
  5. Give them a restaurant gift certificate.
  6. Make plans to take them out.
  7. Send a thank-you message to the organizer.
Dec 1, 2022

What are the qualities of a head chef? ›

You'll need:
  • knowledge of food production methods.
  • leadership skills.
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail.
  • the ability to monitor your own performance and that of your colleagues.
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure.
  • the ability to organise your time and workload.

What are the main qualities of a chef? ›

Skills and qualities
  • to enjoy cooking and cope with the kitchen heat.
  • a lot of stamina.
  • the ability to stay calm under pressure.
  • to be well organised and quick thinking.
  • to take a long-term view, as the training can be lengthy.
  • to work well as part of a team.
  • good communication skills.

What are the 5 golden rules of cooking? ›

Once again, thorough reheating means that all parts of the food must reach at least 70 °C.
  • Avoid contact between raw foods and cooked foods. ...
  • Wash hands repeatedly. ...
  • Keep all kitchen surfaces meticulously clean. ...
  • Protect foods from insects, rodents, and other animal. ...
  • Use safe water.

What are 5 responsibilities of a chef? ›

Chef Job Responsibilities:
  • Lead, mentor, and manage culinary team.
  • Develop and plan menus and daily specials.
  • Create prep lists for kitchen crew.
  • Manage food costing and inventory.
  • Maintain standards for food storage, rotation, quality, and appearance.
  • Ensure compliance with applicable health codes and regulations.

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