Catering just got a lot more customized. Available in four cities, Kitchit sells a service it calls “bespoke dining,” an attempt to bring the experience of eating at a restaurant to a private home. That means not only the food, but the person who cooks it: The company has about 250 chefs on its roster from restaurants including ABC Kitchen in New York, Saison in San Francisco, and Eva in Los Angeles, as well as others who are professional caterers, cookbook authors, and even former Top Chef contestants like season one finalist Dave Martin.
To choose a chef, you just troll through profiles on Kitchit.com. It's similar to using a dating website, only with a much better chance you’ll feel satisfied at the end of the night. Narrow down the choices by price range, date, number of guests, and cuisine. Once you’ve locked in a selection, you can correspond with the chef to request specific ingredients and dishes. Kitchit chefs also do preplanned signature events such as parties with only hors d’oeuvres, and some even give private cooking lessons.
For most events, the chef handles renting equipment, hiring wait staff, and as many of the other details as you want. “Most of the people don’t want to do any work,” says Kevin Lasko (pictured at top), the executive chef at Park Avenue Winter, who has been doing Kitchit events about once a month for the last year.
Kitchit was founded by three young entrepreneurs who met at Stanford, where two were in business school and one was studying computer science. They developed the idea through the university’s business accelerator program, and did test runs of dinner parties to prove its value. “We knew we had something special because we saw people’s fascination with the chef,” says CEO and co-founder Brendan Marshall. “They were having fun with the food since they were having a four-hour dinner party without having to worry about anything the whole time.” The company officially launched in San Francisco last year.
Although the founders were confident that the concept was solid, they initially had difficulty persuading chefs to join. Eventually they drafted enough to sustain the business, and now chefs often initiate contact with the company. Kitchit also has a team focused on finding new chefs and training them on how the website and planning process work.
Kitchit chefs have catered events for as many as 500 people, with prices starting at about $60 per person. The chefs manage their own pricing and Kitchit charges a 12.5% commission. Lasko says he’s done corporate events and parties in the Hamptons that attract a wealthy clientele, but they’re not a huge moneymaker. The real draw for chefs is to promote their restaurants and their personal brands. Lasko prefers more intimate dinners with 20 or fewer diners, all the better to interact with guests and showcase the culinary process.
Kitchit events aim to nearly recreate restaurant dining, but unlike at a restaurant, guests get lots of face time with the person preparing their food.“ You’re cooking five feet away,” Lasko says. “I’ll actually serve the food with one server. It’s super hands on. You get to meet everyone and talk to everyone.” He even keeps track of who has attended and gives them special treatment when they come in to eat at his restaurant.
As with many of Kitchit’s chefs, Lasko’s events usually cost between $100 and $200 per person. But Marshall contends that you’re getting something for your money that no other catering service can provide. “The personality of that chef comes through, but also the personality of the customer comes through,” he says. “Instead of it just being a generic menu of ‘choose these three things,’ it lets you say, ‘Here are my likes and dislikes, and here’s my grandmother’s recipe I’d love to remake.’ So it goes from just food to a very personal, intimate experience when people are around the table.”
In December Kitchit launched in Chicago, and Marshall says it plans to expand to other markets later this year. And it’s continuing to recruit new chefs, so eventually you’ll never have to leave the house, no matter what you want for dinner.