Cookin is a newly launched, homemade food delivery marketplace by long-time friends and business partners Morley Ivers and Michael Baruch. The platform allows emerging and established cooks and chefs to turn their home kitchens into virtual restaurants to create community through their unique meal offerings. The passionate, Toronto-born co-founders spoke about their exciting launch and vision, the delicious food experiences on offer through the app, and Cookin’s endorsement by Michelin-starred restaurateur and chef Patrick Kriss of Alo Food Group.
What makes Cookin different from other food delivery apps or services that have dominated the market in the last few years?
Michael: I think when you think about people within our society today, and the choices that they have as it relates to feeding and nourishing their families, they have [many options to cook or order food]. What we do is empower amazing, talented food creators trying to reinvent themselves after the upheaval of the restaurant industry [which] — through COVID and even before then — [was] an environment where these food creators really weren’t living the type of lives that they wanted to — working 14-hour shifts, not paid that well, in conditions that weren’t ideal.
We’re providing a platform where folks that are looking to nourish their families or feed themselves can go onto the Cookin app and find a local food creator in their community, learn about that person’s background, their inspirations for cooking, and actually order an on-demand, hot, fresh, ready-to-eat, exquisite meal delivered to their door. That’s something you can’t really get anywhere else. The difference with what we’re offering is that personal connection with a chef, a food creator, a baker, or just a cook who is trying to share their passion for feeding and nourishing others. It’s a really powerful tool that we think is a big differentiator.
The recently Michelin-starred Toronto chef Patrick Kriss is part of Cookin’s advisory board. Can you share about how he became part of Cookin’s development?
Morley: When I originally moved back to Toronto, part of the conversation with Michael was, “Hey, I think it would be lovely to partner with the best, most renowned restaurateur and chef in Toronto, and see what they thought about [Cookin].” I said, “Michael, I haven’t lived here in 13 years. Who would that be?”
Michael didn’t hesitate. This is way before we even knew that Michelin was reviewing restaurants in Toronto. We ended up meeting with Patrick. We shared a bit about what our vision was for Cookin, what the technology is, and how we want to use this platform as an empowerment tool to enable people to start their own small businesses and [for] unbelievable food creators to [express themselves through] food.
Patrick went through our deck and our model, the exact same one we used to raise capital. And I think it took Patrick three to five seconds to say, “I’m in. I think this is the future. I would love to be part of this.”
Michael: It was also great to hear from Patrick when we talked about Cookin. He said, “I wish this was around when I was starting my career.” He knows firsthand of friends and colleagues that really struggled to find themselves and the challenges in starting a restaurant today — even before COVID hit hard — and the cost associated with starting one — all the things that chefs have to be good at to run a successful restaurant. They have to be great at hiring. They have to find real estate, manage front of house and back of house, insurance and marketing, etc. But at the end of the day, these passionate chefs just love to cook.
We positioned the notion of the Cookin marketplace where we are trying to attract the best talent, where all they have to focus on is the cooking and allow Cookin to do the rest.
Please talk about one of the chefs who have signed up to Cookin’s platform and how they represent the diversity of Toronto’s food scene.
Morley: Inclusiveness and diversity are two of the pillars upon which we pride ourselves here at Cookin, both in our team, but also in the cooks at large. There’s been nearly 600 food creators to date that have expressed some interest in joining Cookin. We’re excited to onboard many of them. Some of my favourites are newcomers to Canada, who brought with them their cultures and recipes. Through their food, they have an opportunity to tell the story of where they came from.
One of my other favorites for delivery is Thai food. I’m used to ordering pad thai, tom yum soup, and spring rolls for me and my kids. The first time I ordered from Chutikarn on Cookin was the first time I realized that I probably have never had authentic Thai food in my life. This is a woman who emigrated from Thailand to Toronto, and when I tasted her food, I tasted flavors of her home. This was not a dish made with a ton of oil by someone just trying to put out a meal really quickly on the line in the back of a restaurant; it was a meal made with love and care. When I read that card [that came with the food], it said, “Dear Morley, thanks for ordering for me at Cookin. These are the recipes of my childhood,” I realized that my kids, my wife, and I were fortunate to experience Chutikarn’s food in our home.
There was this relationship that was created and that goes back to the very vision that I was speaking about earlier — this notion that Cookin can enable us to unite people together with food. That’s our dream. That’s our desire. And we just happen to have a wonderful business model around that, too.
Rose Ho | Contributing Writer