How the Independent Chef is Cooking a New Kitchen World Order
Friday 1st December
The chef is the ultimate artist, playing on all the senses including the most personal one, taste. A new breed of chef is rewriting the rules of what success looks (and tastes) like, eschewing the formulaic path to culinary success in the traditional restaurant industry and tapping into new technology and emerging consumer trends to create food that is both delicious and immersive. JOEL SERRA, FOUNDER OF PAPALOSOPHY, explores some of the opportunities changing the way chefs today can do business independently.
Just 10 years ago, a chef’s ambitions were limited to the restaurant, but all that is changing as food entrepreneurs seek out alternative income sources. New trends and technologies are allowing chefs to enjoy all the satisfaction of running a restaurant and still remain creative in the kitchen, without the pressures that accompany bricks and mortar.
With marketing tools like Instagram and YouTube, it’s possible to quickly build up a loyal following around the world whose likes, comments and shares can amplify local success into global acclaim. With a strong personal brand and the benefits of technology there are so many opportunities from which to choose to build out their business via popups, supper clubs, food trucks, private cheffing, home dining and food delivery. As Airbnb transformed homes into hotels, Silicon Valley types cast an eye over chefs and dinner tables and hacked together platforms like VizEat, Trybe, Feastly and ChefXChange, which allowed chefs to become truly independent.
So what platforms are available to the independent chef in this gig economy?
Popups demand chefs to combine gastronomic magic with event planning smarts and transform a space into a edible spectacle for a limited number of diners. The entire event is created from scratch – the concept, brand, visuals, voice, menu, format and execution. Chefs (and even some forward-thinking restaurants) have the opportunity to redefine and diversify their brand and connect with an entirely new community.
The Supper Club
Supper clubs are the ultimate food experience that is created entirely through the eyes of the chef. The chef selects the venue – their own home, or a private and unique space (think art galleries, design stores, boats, vacant parking lots, and secret gardens). Next the chef creates a menu, not limited by economics, restaurant logistics, monotone palettes or brand expectations.
The supper club is exciting. It possesses an unpredictability and tendency to surprise that attracts even the most hardened foodie. It is as exclusive as it is democratised making it accessible but also just out of reach of the lazy and unimaginative. It is social enough to allow for wild cross-table conversations with diners who just moments ago were strangers. Yet also offering an intimacy that allows for pleasure to be shared with just one other. Supper clubs are where wild chefs roam and adventurous foodies hunt.
You will find some of the best supperclubs in the world listed on SaltShaker – a simple website that is constantly adding and updating their global list.
The Food Truck
The food truck is romanticised for good reason, all around the world childhoods were punctuated by scoops of ice-cream, crunchy cinnamon-dusted churros, tacos, burritos and enchiladas, and hot dogs with extra mustard. Food trucks today are less cute and more cool offering the chef a moveable format through which to share their food vision and engage directly with the hungry streets.
Food trucks around the world are hard to find! But Mobile Cuisine looks like the most complete listing of where to get your hit of late-night tacos al pastor!
If food is about bringing people together, where are the tables that allow for this interaction? Home-dining satisfies this deep need to connect and gives the home chef complete control over the menu, pricing, calendar, wine selection, and how many (and who) will be sitting down with them at the table. The table is the original social network and home dining keeps community alive in the most delicious way possible.
The largest community of home dining experiences can be found on VizEat, who count some 22,000 hosts offering deliciously immersive food experiences in more than 110 countries.
There has always been an entrepreneurially-minded home cook that made an extra portion of dinner and sought out neighbours or co-workers as a way to economize. The modern world doesn’t allow for home cooked lunches or exotic mealtimes, but a new kind of delivery lets the independent chef share their food passion with more than just their social network and offer a truly home cooked delivery option powered by the latest technology.
My favourite community of independent chefs that offer food delivery services is Trybe. They launched in Barcelona this year and have become very popular as home cooked food gets a delicious makeover.
The independent chef is not a new phenomenon, but the advent of this democratizing technology has allowed not just the most entrepreneurial to join the ranks. To build a concept and ultimately make a living as an independent chef today, one simply needs a vision, a determination to constantly experiment, innovate and adapt and an unwavering belief that their food story is worth sharing (and that their food is worth tasting!)
No doubt there will be blow-back. Every advancement in how we create, work and live will always reward those that adapt and evolve, while leaving behind those that try to desperately hold onto accepted rules of engagement. But the independent chef movement is inclusive, as far as revolutions go, and the passionate home cook has just as much chance of succeeding as the Michelin-starred chef. Those that are able adapt, reinvent and diversify their food concept to connect with their existing community and engage new ones will be the real winners in this game.
Find out more about Papalosophy: www.papalosophy.com
Joel’s Twitter: @PapaSerraJr
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