Interview with SuChef

Chris Ferrer is the creator of a new startup SuChef. Here is a conversation I had with him about the company. Be sure to check out their website, TikTok, and Instagram!

Can you explain what SuChef is?/What inspired you to create SuChef?

Yeah, so SuChef is a platform to help a diverse set of chefs and creators monetize their cooking classes, cooking recipes, dinners, and cooking content. That’s kind of the goal, and then to help home cooks kind of connect with chefs that they really admire and trust to get step by step recipes to cook dishes during the week, to learn how to cook better, to take cool cooking classes and, you know, kind of go on culinary journeys through like the Easton region of Thailand and learn how to make per meal or dishes that might be out of your typical wheelhouse.

I think the thing I was noticing is that more and more people are learning how to cook through social media or finding food inspiration from social media. Something like for like 25 to 32 year olds,  59% use YouTube, 41% use Instagram, and 29% use TikTok.

It’s kind of crazy how many people are looking towards social media. There’s just so much content, like over a million posts of food content on Instagram. There’s just a big shift where folks aren’t necessarily looking to like the food network or Julia child on how to cook, but rather chefs. And the thing that I noticed was before I started business school, Iwas making a lot of recipes during the pandemic and friends were asking me for recipes. I started making some TikTok and Instagram recipe videos, and I was like, oh, you know, maybe if, it goes, well, I don’t have to go to business school! I can become an Instagram influencer. But I didn’t make any money and just thought, wow, there’s so many incredible chefs that are much better at cooking, make much better content than I do, and it’s hard for them to monetize. Something like, for YouTubers, 97% make less than $12,000 a year, which is kind of crazy, cuz you know, you kind of think of influencers you like, and think anyone can be a creator or anyone can make money these days, but it’s wild how few people actually make a sustainable income. On TikTok, if you get 1 million views you make about 40 bucks, and it’s a lot of work to make a video that gets to a million views, which I really started to appreciate after like trying to edit a bunch of videos.

So that’s kind of the idea, to bring a more diverse set of chefs than you typically see. You can bring folks who really care about the dishes, are steeped in the culture, love cooking it, and have really good tips and tricks around making different dishes. It’s not just a random dude making Shalon bow. It’s like someone who actually really cares about the dish and thinks about not just authenticity, but like that there’s a multitude of ways that people make these dishes in different areas of different countries, and like, can you bring that breadth and excitement to the dishes?

What are your long term goals for SuChef?

My long term goals are to make it a platform where like we partner with chefs where they’re able to make sustainable, recurring revenue through the platform, and at the same time home cooks get recipes that meet kind of their needs in the sense that I feel like you look at a recipe and frequently it’s like, how does this fit into my life? Like, oh, this rose pork looks really dope, but , do I make it on a weekday or on a weekend? Is it like a couple of servings? Is it like, I’m just gonna feed a whole family? So I think, trying to figure out how do we create just a much better digital experience for cooking.

Like I love the New York Times cooking, but it looks like an article and doesn’t always give you the tools that you need to make it. It might call out braising or it might look like braising and you’re like, okay, let me Google that. Let me filter like the top three viewed posts and watch every one of them, and then I still don’t know how to do it. Can you still have a better experience? The idea is to have kind of a step by step recipe. You have a video at the top, you have a video for each step of the recipe, so here’s the chopping, here’s the sauteing, and here are the ingredients, which I remember always scrolling up and trying to figure out, okay, where, where am I, what ingredients did I already use and what’s left? Scroll up, it’s a nightmare. And, so you have all that and then pop outs. So if it’s braising or it’s sauteing or it’s julienning, it’s gonna be right there for you. Then, recipes that are like I want a quick healthy meal during the week or I like to eat granola every day and getting really bored of it, but I’m not gonna stop eating granola so like what can I do to make it fun and interesting for me. Or I really like cooking, and I want to get into sourdough baking this weekend. What do I need to do? Where can I get some sourdough starter? Can I order groceries through the platform? So that’s kind of the goal to make it a really seamless experience from discovering chefs that you love, that you might already know or don’t know yet. And making an easy experience for the chef. Like I can flip through some videos and see, oh, this looks really easy, this looks really delicious, or this looks too hard, and then click to the recipe and easily run through it. You can order the groceries through the platform through Instacart or like a specialty market and get like Latinx or Asian groceries. And then, you know, give tips around posting it if you wanna make an Instagram video or post. So really like an end to end experience. And then on top of that, like providing experiences. So if you want to go to a dinner, like a chef’s house, or you want to take a cooking class, providing all of those opportunities for you to level up your cooking or just to have fun social events and meet new people or go with friends is kind of the idea.

What has been the most rewarding part of creating SuChef so far?

I think it’s really fun to work on something you’re really passionate about. I have loved cooking for a really long time and was previously in tech and FinTech and enjoyed it a lot and really enjoyed the mission around trying to help people get access to tools they wouldn’t normally have access to to improve their financial wellbeing. It’s really exciting to see the fusion of like my past experience as a product manager, like building technology tools, as well as my passion for food and then trying to empower creators to get revenue to financially empower them so they can do what they’re passionate about around cooking. They may have the freedom not to necessarily work at a commercial kitchen or they can do that too. But having kind of the bandwidth and multiple streams of revenue to really get towards financial freedom, I think is really exciting, and it’s really fun. I’ve been making a lot of recipe videos, and talking to a lot of chefs and creators, and lie last week we were talking to this guy, his name is Matt on TikTok, and he’s like this really cool guy who is a chef. He has been doing a lot of posting, and he’s like blowing up. The day before I talked to him, he was at like 50,000 followers on TikTok, and then yesterday I was checking. He has like 130,000 followers. Then he had a post the day in the morning I talked to him, and he got like a million views on that post. He was like, yeah, I woke up to it, and I was freaking out. It was incredible. That post now has like 4 million views. It’s wild, seeing their journey, and it’s really fun chatting with them about their passion for building community,sharing their passion about food, and their excitement for opportunities beyond, like, oh, “I’m thinking about monetizing on TikTok, but I don’t know what to do,” or like “I’m just not getting the brand deals I thought.” I think there’s a much better way. So it’s just really exciting bringing those passions together and makes it really fun even though it’s kind of scary and kind of hard.

What has been a challenge that you’ve had to face?

One has been cold reaching out to chefs and creators. We now have a beta app but before we did, it was more of like an idea. We had been validating it, getting interviews of home cooks to understand what are their pain points around searching, for example, where you used get decision fatigue, you look up a recipe, you get like 3 million of results and it’s just like a mountain of text and it’s like someone’s great grandmother’s recipe that’s high key mediocre and took 30 minutes longer than you fill out. 

But, it was hard to kind of just get connected with chefs. What I found is that  with warm connections, like friends, it’s kind of incredible how many people you know, know chefs at like at really cool places. That’s been really helpful. They trust that person and talking to them. Then also just sliding into people’s DMS. That’s been really good. I thought it was gonna be really hard to drum up, home cooks who would be interested, but we’ve been finding the idea really resonates with people. People struggle to figure out what to cook or just want better content on a regular basis. Right now we have a wait list of 120 people, which, I’m super excited about.

Then the other part is talking about it to folks who don’t understand the story or pain points or who maybe don’t cook. Especially we’ve been doing a lot of pitch competitions to really helping people understand.So talking to venture capitalists and judges who are like I don’t cook that much, but like, is it really a problem? I think it’s really helped us evolve and hone in on our story of talking about the pain points from a monetization standpoint for chefs and helping folks understand that this is a huge mega trend of people using social media for cooking. A lot of people, like 30% of the population, are enthusiastic cooks. They’re hobbyists, and they love cooking. They might be busy during the week so want quick recipes, but on the weekend, like they’re down to do a recipe project where they’re baking for a couple hours or, you know, doing something really fun and creative. They’re kind of lacking that outlet so trying to communicate that pain and that struggle I was talking about of mountains of texts, mediocre recipes, and “I might as well just  have ordered out rather than make this mediocre dish.” Additionally, more people are cooking from home than ever. It’s like 214 million people in the US cook 3 times a week. So it’s kind of interesting to see that change, but just trying to make sure that resonates with folks. I think those have been the hardest things: that cold outreach and then telling the story.

What advice would you give to your past self when you were starting SuChef?

Probably to start building the beta app earlier. I think we had some good interviews and were ready to get cracking faster, just to have something to like show people, get people excited about, start onboarding content and then to probably just reach out to more creators and kind of get them on board around creating content for the platform so that we can see content because that’s kind of where we’re at right now. Additionally, just trying to get a bunch of content onto the platform that’s really high quality and that people are excited about that they’d be willing to pay for. Those are probably like the big things.

I think the other thing would be to hit Handshake,  the university career board, earlier. Last semester I started posting in semester internships and got a lot of interest from software engineers and marketers from UPenn, the university of Chicago, and Stanford, so I have been hiring a bunch of folks to work on it during the semester. We just wrapped up the back end of our web app, like the next iteration, because the beta right now is a no code app that I built on Bubble. They have also been helping with social media. They’ve been super helpful, like they’re incredibly smart and passionate about food and it’s been really exciting to have a wonderful team. I just wish I had kind of sought that team earlier. I didn’t know many outlets at first. I would talk to friends to see if they wanted to join, but they’re kind of busy. The Handshake was just a real content of finding folks that are really passionate, want experience, are really smart, and are just excited to be building!

Thank you so much for answering all the questions!

Thank you, of course!

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