Home made

After incorporating in January and winning a $ 15,000 summer scholarship from the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, social catering app Homecooked Inc has spent the summer expanding its presence in the region. of New Haven.

The app offers a culinary experience that connects customers with local amateur chefs. Founders Hojung Kim and Kevin Zhen ’20 first met in high school, stayed close as they made separate paths to college – Kim at the University of Chicago and Zhen at Yale – and ran Homecooked since its creation. Coder Eric Duong ’20 joined as the third co-founder after attending Homecooked’s inaugural event, which was held in the student kitchen at Silliman College in March.

Homecooked provides a platform where hosts can plan a meal, set a reservation price, and invite six to eight people into their own kitchen. The app processes payments and reservations and allows guests and hosts of the same event to connect. Users of the app can then add other guests as friends, follow their mutual interests, and attend future events together.

Zhen called the company “Airbnb for food, with a Tinder twist.”

“The end of the game is relationships and community,” Zhen said. “We can define success based on the number of active monthly users and income, but I dream of the day someone picks up the phone and calls me and says, ‘Kev, you won’t believe it: I met my wife via Homecooked. It would just taste so sweet.

Since its founders began raising funds in March, Homecooked has won $ 70,000 in non-equity funding from startup contests, including a $ 50,000 prize from Missouri-based 1ST50K and the grant from Tsai CITY’s $ 15,000 summer accelerator as part of the young centre’s very first summer scholarship. Last summer, Homecooked worked with eight different chefs in New Haven to organize twelve meals in total. A total of 90 guests attended various events, paying between $ 15 and $ 25 for a plate. Total revenue reached $ 1,800, with Hosts making 85% and Homecooked the remaining 15%.

While living in an off-campus apartment at the University of Chicago, co-founder Hojung Kim initially conceived Homecooked as a way to fight isolation. According to the NPD Group, a market research company, 57% of Americans still eat their meals alone.

“It comes from a place where I struggled with loneliness and depression for several years,” he told The News. “In this new environment saturated with social media, I would spend very little time talking and being connected with others. “

After witnessing the culture around social meals on a trip to Europe, Kim began to see food as a powerful way to connect others, he said, adding that he later invited guests to friends, their friends and soon strangers for meals in his apartment.

Exhibited at Homecooked via Facebook, PhD candidate Hannah Lant GRD ’21 first attended a friend’s event before hosting her own with partner Chris Wang GRD ’21 over the weekend. of Labor Day. They cooked for a group of eight, serving butternut squash ravioli and macaroons to a friend, a New Haven retiree and a Yale student, among others.

“We had a very interesting conversation about the Yale community, its relationship with the larger New Haven community and how Homecooked could potentially foster some connections and improve that relationship overall,” Lant explained. “It’s the kind of conversation you don’t always have if you’re talking to people in the same field as yourself. “

Despite Homecooked’s warm welcome in New Haven, competing groups like EatWith and Feastly exist in the market today. But these groups often charge much higher prices for elite dining experiences, Zhen said. Homecooked’s competitors have been challenged to defend the gray regulatory zone in which the hosts operate, cooking without a food license but at private events in their own kitchens. Zhen said Homecooked’s recent acceptance into Yale Law School’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Clinic would help them address these issues.

“We have a small army of Yale lawyers working to defend our startup,” Zhen explained with a smile.

Caroline Smith ’14, co-director of Collab, an incubator for Connecticut startups that she founded with her Yale classmate Margaret Lee ’14, first met the Homecooked team when she applied to the Collab acceleration program. Lee and Smith remain mentors for the company, and Smith told The News she is optimistic about the impact Homecooked can have.

“They are really dedicated to ending loneliness in cities, especially for newcomers or for those who want to expand their networks.” Smith said. “They will be in several cities, people will be having meals with people they have never met before and there will be chefs who aspire to develop their culinary skills. I believe in them.

Zhen, who is currently juggling Venmo payments and Google Forms signups from the kitchen table in his New Haven apartment, has Homecooked events scheduled for the next six weeks. The Homecooked app, currently offline for a full update, is expected to relaunch on October 23.

William mccormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu

WILLIAM MCCORMACK


William McCormack is currently a sports and digital editor for the Yale Daily News. Previously, he covered men’s basketball and sports administration as a reporter. Originally from Boston, he was a junior at Timothy Dwight College.


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