There is only one company to date that the Gotham Gal has made an angel investment and subsequently USV has invested in and that is Kitchensurfing. I was not involved in either investment decision. The Gotham Gal made the angel investment herself. And because I was conflicted, by virtue of her investment, I recused myself from USV’s investment decision. So I don’t know as much about this company as many others in the USV portfolio.

But I know this much, it’s a fantastic service. Last night we had a dozen people at our beach house. The Gotham Gal is a great cook but she wasn’t really down with the idea of cooking and cleaning up for that large of a group. So we went with Kitchensurfing.

We wanted to eat healthy, lots of farm fresh foods, cooked without any heavy sauces or spices. We selected Chef Warren and he came through for us. He picked up some chicken at the local chicken farm. And he brought all sorts of fresh vegetables.

Our meal wasn’t one of the standard menus on his Kitchensurfing page. But it was pretty close in terms of price and selection to this one. We obviously customized it.

He grilled everything up to perfection, served it buffet style, and cleaned up everything and left the kitchen and grill as he found it.

I tweeted this out as dinner was served:

If you find yourself in a similar situation, with a house full of guests, without a desire to cook and clean, and are willing to spend what you’d spend if you went out to eat, try Kitchensurfing. It’s great.

#Food and Drink#marketplaces

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Food costs at restaurants are typically 20% of sales. And profits around 15% for a well run one. Do you know what the Chef’s profit margin would be for a Kitchensurfing model? (I’m assuming it ends-up being way higher than 15%, but maybe food costs are higher too).Curious what fees does Kitchensurfing charge and does it come out from the customer or Chef, or both?

    1. jason wright

      so how far did Warren travel?

      1. fredwilson

        he works on the east end, so not far

        1. jason wright

          “the east end” – umm, i’m not familiar with the geography of the NY area. the price structure must make it worth the gig.I know of a place here, a private residence (previously a nineteenth century village school building), where the owners open up their kitchen as a restaurant once or twice a month to the public. The owners cook, the public eat. I’m not sure your wife would go for that. This must be how restaurants started.

          1. JimHirshfield

            The eastern end of Long Island, NY.

          2. jason wright

            Thanks. Long Island – accurate but uninspiring. The place names are so of England.This is my new favourite beach house;http://www.kierantimberlake…The owner has designed the new US Embassy building in London.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Yes. We have a history with England.But on the eastern end of Long Island we also show our history with American Indians in town names like Montauk and Amagansett.

          4. jason wright

            England also has such naming diversity (although not nearly as distinctly recognisable as native American aside English), reflecting the different waves of tribal settlement over time on the island. Angles, Celts, Saxons, Danes, Normans,…et.c. they all brought their own naming words across from the continent.

          5. JimHirshfield

            Melting pots.

          6. jason wright

            mosaic.the UK is an island empire ruled by the Normans in the south.

          7. Vasudev Ram

            Aren’t American Indian names there in many other parts of the US as well? I like hearing / reading them, many sound musical – if that’s the right word.

          8. ShanaC

            Lots of places. Though my favorite name of a place on Long island is Hicksville (hehehehehe)(I grew up on long island right outside of NYC and went to camp right outside of Hicksville..hence…why I find these things funny)

          9. Vasudev Ram


          10. JimHirshfield

            For sure

          11. LE

            KTH (they were originally Kieran Timerlake Harris) was one of my clients back in the 80’s when they opened up in Old City Philly.

          12. jason wright

            who was Harris?

          13. jason wright

            ah, i see.that his name doesn’t live with the company seems unsatisfactory, but i’m not privy to the inside details of that.Thanks.

      2. Warren Schierenbeck

        I came from the jersey shore. I stacked a few parties for the weekend and stayed out east

    2. Anne Libby

      A KS chef I worked with told me that the KS cut was 10%. So it’s incumbent on the chef to really know what to charge.We had a great experience, tasty meal. And afterwards, I worried that she hadn’t charged us enough.(I had warned her about how tough it was to park in the neighborhood — paying to park, if she couldn’t find street parking, would have had an impact on her margin.)Definitely an experience with the new world of work.(edited, typos.)

      1. LE

        paying to parkThe model should break out parking as a separate charge on the person doing the party. It’s not exactly deminimis in some areas.

        1. Anne Libby

          Exactly. But the model is food = x, chef’s charge = y. I saw a couple of chefs say that they’d charge extra for some incidental or another. (It was so reasonable to me that I didn’t even retain what the charge would be for.)I assume that KS schools the chefs in how to price their services (or at some point they will, as Etsy now does.)It’s a consulting model. (Something that I’ve had plenty of time to learn by making probably every mistake in the book — maybe inventing new mistakes, too.)The challenge with listing one’s services in a labor marketplace, is how do you avoid participating in a race to the bottom on pricing?

      2. Alex Wolf


        1. Anne Libby

          That’s what the woman who made that June dinner told me…

    3. Richard

      If the chef is buying food at retail, you’ll need to double food costs.

      1. awaldstein

        Wholesale vegies and farm meats 50% cost for wholesale? Don’t think so.

        1. Richard

          The number was high (but maybe not in the Hamptons) and took into account time and costs of shopping. But 50% margins across the grocery basket is about right.

          1. awaldstein

            Doesn’t matter where honestly. If you are buying the best vegies and meats, dairy and seeds, home made pastas and bread, the cost differential between me buying it at the market and a restaurant buying it at the market ain’t that big a spread cause the farmer doesn’t need the wholesaler to make the biz work.Now frozen, imported stuff like cashew, more so in huge bulk.They don’t make their money on the mark up.Or so is my experience.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Also, it’s not hard to get access to a restaurant supply store. Just need to own any business (doesn’t have to be a restaurant) for the one near me.

          3. awaldstein

            Yup nothing exclusive.The big issue is negotiating terms for cash flow the big gotcha for all food busineses.

          4. LE

            You actually don’t have to own anything at all. Getting access to wholesale anything (or most things) is generally more a function of “talking the talk” than anything else.That is, to know enough, and speak confidently enough, that you aren’t questioned deeply and nothing further is checked regarding the truth of what you are saying. (Exceptions might be something that requires a license obviously…)As far as “need to own a business” in almost all cases it’s more like “needs to appear to own a business” which is really as simple as once again saying the right things and having, say a real enough looking business card or other markers of legitimacy.Most wholesalers or distributors don’t want to deal with end users because a) they don’t buy in volume b) it’s not their channel c) they are pains in the asses (because they don’t know jack and take up so much time) d) their channel wouldn’t allow it. And so on. I learned this as a kid helping my dad at the NY Gift show. People would come in and as long as they didn’t waste his time if they said they owned a gift shop he would sell to them. Same if they called on the phone. Just make them COD.Consequently if you can clear the hurdles and look and quack like a duck they are not really going to question you. In general.In the early 80’s I bought computers wholesale because I had checks that said “Marathon Data Products” and knew enough to act like I was in the business (even though I had started another business at the time). Actually the business I was going to start out of college was computer supplies which is where I got the idea when I had to buy daisy wheels for the computer center LQP from a wholesaler.

          5. awaldstein

            Not true really in the food biz.If you are in business you have an EIN. Can’t buy at wholesale on the capital or grocery level without that.You don’t need a cheaper 12 gallon graduated measuring tank you need a supplier to provide what you need when you gotta have it.

          6. LE

            If required, it’s easy to get an EIN from the IRS and getting one doesn’t imply doing anything else or creating any requirement after getting one. A sales tax collection/exemption lic. is more difficult of course but can be had as well.In any case a business vendor that requires an EIN is almost certainly not going to go to the trouble of even checking whether the EIN is valid and even if the EIN is not valid nothing is going to happen. I mean of course airplanes do crash but most do not crash.Now once again if you are buying for a business you will have an EIN because you are a business. But if you aren’t a business and want to buy as a business and have to fill out a form that requires an EIN you can just put down a number that matches the correct EIN pattern and the clerk at the wholesaler “some girl in the office” is almost certainly not going to give it any further thought. If she finds it is wrong what is she going to do? Call the DA? Report you to the IRS? [1]In the case of sales tax exemption you could say “my accountant is applying for that so I don’t have it yet”and that you will pay sales tax until it is issued (if they collect that which they might not if they are strickly wholesale). Or, you can fake that number and then pay the tax (use tax) separately. That’s in the off chance the wholesaler is actually audited and you get caught.All of the above involves taking on a degree of risk so depending on the skill level of the perp it might very well not be a risk worth taking.Btw I’m not trying to provide exact instructions on how to game the system either. Much of this depends on the exact circumstances and who you are dealing with. If you are an entrepreneur you figure it out as you go along making the appropriate changes and taking the appropriate chances given the situation and the downside and upside risk.There is always a risk balance in small business. Play by all the rules and you won’t make much money. Break to many rules and you go to jail.

      2. William Mougayar

        It would be great if Chef Warren came here to discuss.

      3. ShanaC

        Kitchensurfing might be able to help with that, depending how many nights out they have and locations they are sending chefs to. They could have farms/others to contract from

    4. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Even with the ubiquity of minimum – or thereabouts – wage the biggest hit by far is fixed costs in one’s building and slightly more variable staff costs – where I work ( we do some 500 fine-dining covers just over Sat/Sun. Hugely complex industry, little wonder meals – good ones – are so expensive.

      1. awaldstein

        There in lies the conundrum of the food industry.High cost, high value product made by low cost labor. Yet the margin of the product itself disallows more cost in the operations.Amazingly broken and hard to fix.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          It is very interesting, Arnold – there seems to be a huge silo-mentality issue in the industry as in any industry that is incestuous – scope for much improvement but a resistance to change. I can see many opportunities for lower costs/better profits and better food available to more diners if automation were embraced more for example plus aged infrastructures are such high maintenance if modernised things would be much more streamlined. Anyway I’m sticking to a focus on a jazz bar by the sea, selling only spirits/wine – much easier, much better profits, much less aggro than a food focus. One day… 😉

          1. awaldstein

            This is tough and a subject I’m addressing now as Lianna is doing her first seed round.Margins, labor, mechanization, really raw are all issues that are good discussions.

    5. Dave Pinsen

      See the link to the sample dinner Fred included. About $75 per person for similar to what Fred got (presumably not including wine). Fred didn’t mention if the chef brought help. If not, then his take should be = (~$75 x 12) – food cost – Kitchen Surfing’s vig. If he brought help, then deduct another $100 per helper?

    6. awaldstein

      Ingredients at 20% translates well over to the juice biz as well.The big issue, as your numbers show is operating costs. They are the big elephant on the balance sheet.And rent!

      1. LE

        Do you mean “as your numbers grow”?

        1. awaldstein

          Actually no.Food biz at a handmade scale are pretty simple and pretty hard. 20% ingredients, some packaging, labor, sales and a boat load of capital.Scale is efficiency unless your change your model.

      2. ShanaC

        I wish I had a better way of controlling my ingredient costs at home. That number should be lower, except cold chain costs are hard to handle due to how to handle spoilage. meal planning isn’t enough. I’m pretty crazy. I buy mostly organic produce at the greenmarket except during deep winter (there isn’t much at the greenmarket to buy, and I am hoping to have cash on hand/way of setting out to do overwintered greens/growlights + microgreens to supplement) I try buying bulk other stuff like beans. Meats, eggs, dairy I wish I could afford organic the way I want.*sigh*

        1. awaldstein

          yup–an issue that we all face.honestly, i miss having some dirt to grow it myself.there’s a company–window gardens?–that has some cool hydoponic hanging thingees that interest me.

          1. awaldstein

            Love this.If you were closer I’d stop by and pick dinner with you.

          2. Carl Rahn Griffith

            Welcome any time, Arnold – caveat: our asparagus won’t be ready until next season so you may want to schedule around that. Became addicted to the stuff when I worked in Vienna for ages.

          3. Anne Libby

            And it’s beautiful!

          4. William Mougayar


    7. christmasgorilla

      William, we do 10% to the chef and 3% to the consumer. Pretty similar to Airbnb.There’s a huge amount of variance in the way that different chefs work on Kitchensurfing. Warren happens to be a chef that does small parties and also can crush larger events. Warren also happens to live in New Jersey.There are other chefs that do very well on Kitchensurfing that focus on smaller parties close to home (if they live in more densely populated areas).

      1. William Mougayar


  2. William Mougayar

    I must have misplaced my invitation.

      1. William Mougayar


  3. pointsnfigures

    A friend of mine in Chicago was an early investor a couple of years ago. I am glad they are getting traction. I should have thought of using them Friday night. Would have made my life a lot less stressful…we had a party for 30.

    1. JimHirshfield

      What did you serve?

      1. pointsnfigures

        beef and lamb tenderloin (sous vide and then grilled) planked salmon, caesar salad, 15 bottles of 1993 Grand Cru red burgundies, 1st growth bordeaux and some nice California cabs for my daughter’s 21st. She did the guest list. I bought the wine when she was 2 and stored it all these years. Was fun.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Nice wine strategy!Who did all the cooking?

          1. pointsnfigures

            Me and my wife….and the purveying. Purveying is fun and I enjoy it. But in the city it’s tough to drive everywhere. Just got some Panniers for my bike so I will be able to ride. Bikes are faster than cars in denser urban areas.

          2. JimHirshfield

            Nice. I miss that about the city.

          3. pointsnfigures

            There are things I would miss, and things I wouldn’t. No place is perfect. One of these days I will try to spend some time in rural areas. Totally different perspective.

          4. Anne Libby

            “Purveying” is definitely one of the things that KS solves for the client. The chef does it.So — to @wmoug:disqus’s earlier question on margins, and how they compare to restaurant margins — the chef has to know how much time it will take to “purvey,” and the value of her time — and then price the service accordingly.

          5. awaldstein

            I find that the intersection of the Farmer’s Market and Whole Foods does it usually.I email the farmers if something special is needed.But when I need something like gluton free bagels or the best lox in NYC, I just jump on a city bike.Love urban life.

          6. Dave Pinsen

            Our local whole foods has great liquor choices.

          7. awaldstein

            Whole Foods (with one exception) doesn’t sell alcohal in NYC.Have to say that in LA the choices were limited. I did some light consulting with someone creating some educational programs to train the floor staff.Now that I understand how WF works (lulitonix is a supplier) i understand how non trivial the buying and education of the floor staff is for this.But–if they are great near you–GREAT!

          8. Anne Libby

            You got into WF! Congratulations.

          9. awaldstein

            Thank you.Chia’s first, then the elixirs, then Brooklyn then we shall see.Lot’s of overhead to make them successful

          10. Dave Pinsen

            Congrats on Lulutonix getting into Whole Foods.Most supermarkets near me don’t sell any alcohol – maybe it’s local laws – but the Whole Foods in Paramus has a huge selection of everything from beer (including lots of local microbrews) to hard liquor. And they cleverly have it in several parts of the store in addition to the dedicated liquor section. There’s beer near the butcher, if you’re going to grill, there’s vodka near the frozen fruit, if you’re thinking of making frozen drinks, etc. And there are fancy cheeses, pickles, olives, breads, etc. near the wines. Great place.

          11. LE

            I email the farmers if something special is needed.Interesting I wonder if anyone has come up with a way to communicate with farmers and enable more direct commerce. I don’t shop like that. But I’m curious if someone who does (such as yourself) sees the market for a product that would more directly connect you to the farmer and what they have on any given day.Back when I used to buy live crabs the big question was always what they had (size wise and price) before I drove over to pick some up.For that matter even knowing what they have at takeout at the local whole foods would be nice to be able to browse on my cell phone. Seems like it would be relatively easy to get that type of thing to work.

          12. awaldstein

            There are tons of options from buying part of a harvest to trucks that service neighborhoods with fresh produce from New England.The pleasure of the green market is that you cook with what is fresh.If you need something special like grass feed, free range, no antibiotic briskett now and again, you just ask.Wonderfully inefficient as what is picked is what there is. Get there early or make friends and have them hold it for you.

          13. Vasudev Ram

            >Interesting I wonder if anyone has come up with a way to communicate with farmers and enable more direct commerce.I’ve heard of some small (mom-and-pop scale) and medium sized operations that do that in India.

          14. ShanaC

            Any farmers at the greenmarket that you love?

  4. jason wright

    get an iwatch

  5. awaldstein

    Big fan of this service. I can tell you from personal experience that if you want someone for a holiday, like Passover book early!Fred–who chose the wine?

  6. Richard

    When considering this type of investment, does the discussion of whether the corporate viel will protect the LPs from tort liability come up?

    1. fredwilson


      1. LE

        What’s interesting is that Mark Cuban on Shark Thank is always making comments as far as how any business he invests in makes him a target because of his deep pockets. He’s skipped investing in some business at least claiming that it would make him a target for a lawsuit. I’ve always wondered about the actual reasons of why he says that. Meaning what is the actual threat or leg to stand on that he is worried about. Hard to believe he would use that as an excuse if there wasn’t a shred of truth.

        1. William Mougayar

          He has had a very painful lawsuit that dragged on for years, and I think he just won it. Once bitten, twice shy….maybe.

          1. LE

            What I’ve always found fascinating is that there are places where you go where you always sign a contract (like if you rent a boat for example or want to windsurf) and there are places you don’t (like when you eat at a restaurant or buy food). For that matter you can buy a car and you really don’t sign a contract which says anything close to “hey you might get injured as a result of a mistake we have made”. As a kid my dad told me “the sign that says ride at your own risk” is simply to try and prevent you from calling a lawyer. The place is responsible if something happens and they are at fault (but see “defacto protection” below which is a very important concept)These situations are either covered by insurance or they become the type of thing where nobody can really afford to hire a lawyer to get a pound of flesh. Which I will call “defacto” protection. Or lawyer won’t take it on contingency. (I did photography for those lawyers in college and always brought back a good picture..)My dad fell back on a clearly defective chair at a restaurant and actually spent time in a hospital with bills as a result and there was nothing legally that could be done apparently. In the sense that no lawyer was going to put in the effort for a single litigant given the potential outcome.

  7. Richard

    This is a great example of why the GDP numbers will likely have marginally less and less correlation to the level of economic activity.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      How so?

  8. Jim Haughwout

    As an engineer and a cook I find this appealing. However, I wonder how big it will get. Yes, lots of people through parties (but is the price point too high, they currently look closer to wedding buffet prices than parties). Yes, I could “come back for new parties”. However, most people will not do this as often as Uber or even AirBnB (and it is pretty easy to go off-platform for follow-up work with a chef you like).

    1. Warren Schierenbeck

      As a chef I direct all inquiries to the platform. Convenience. They collect money and advertise. It also builds my profile and reviews

  9. Pete Griffiths

    Now THAT is a useful tip 🙂

  10. joewaltman

    Looks like a great meal. I don’t want you to share sensitive info, but wondering if you are able to provide average spend per customer (ie total spend across a meal) and average meals per year (or month) per customer.I am asking because I am currently working on something similar ( – kitchensurfing for veterinarians) and would appreciate some proxies for these in-home services.Thanks.

  11. Richard

    What’s the protocol for the leftovers?

    1. LE

      And more importantly are there boxes for the leftovers? That actually could be an additional revenue source – provide, at an extra cost, boxes (with kf logo and web address) boxes for takeaway food. You get additional advertising exposure for anyone attending one of these events. (I’ve always thought businesses do a poor job of this. You attend a wedding and have nothing to remind you of the band that you liked when you need it two years later..)

    2. Warren Schierenbeck

      I leave any leftovers

  12. Conrad Ross Schulman

    very smart of Gotham Gal to pick up on this trend before it hit the mainstream clearly makes sense since GG lives for cooking..etc

  13. LE

    I’m guessing the obvious expansion of kitchensurfing is intoa) party planning helpb) serving help c) pick up food for the party help d) clean up helpAnd there are labor units who can do all of the above butcan’t cook. Why not be a conduit for that as well?Let’s call it the “everyone wants to wash the suds off the car” analogy.When you wash a car the fun part is washing the suds off. Everyone wants to do that part. Nobody likes to soap it up or dry it off. There is a market for doing the heavy lifting parts of holding a party as opposed to the actual cooking which is fun for many people.

    1. JimHirshfield

      e) Book event entertainment, you know, like a clown, musician, or comedian.f) Thank you notes.

      1. LE

        As far as “f” in other words you invite people over for dinner (which you pay for) and then you send them thank you notes?Did you mean g) invitations?This movie sprung out of Jarecki needing to hire a clown for a party:

        1. JimHirshfield

          Birthday dinner party scenario –> Gifts –> Thank you cards.

          1. LE

            By the way I think the comedian angle is good. A small group of people share common interests and have all sorts of inside jokes if the crowd is close, right? Seems like it would be easy to make a routine, with advance planning (and knowledge from the host), that catered to things that would make a small party of inebriated people laugh “and we all know what happens when Dave doesn’t get his sleep!!!!”

          2. JimHirshfield

            And just have the comedian be one of the guests. Don’t tell the others he’s a professional humorist. Don’t call it Stand Up… call it Sit Down.

          3. Anne Libby

            Jim, I see a side gig for you…

          4. JimHirshfield

            Just trying to get invited to more dinner parties.

          5. LE

            That got me thinking about what is the best audience size for comedy. In doing a search I found this:http://www.comedyevaluatorp…I have no idea to what degree it’s true (after all as they say “those that can’t teach or sell help guides”.)Contrary to popular belief, audience size is NOT necessary the most critical factor when it comes to generating headliner level laughter levels, provided that the other audience dynamics are optimal for laughter generation.I’ve never done any standup comedy but got plenty of laughs with a speech I gave at a bat mitzvah (300 people iirc). The way I did it was in addition to being funny before I started in I purposely singled out 5 or 6 people in the audience for special mention. So they were all happy as a result and were totally cracking up at all the things that I said. (Some of which was pretty funny but not all of it). And they were the claqiers that got everyone else to laugh. The whole thing was captured on video but the last few minutes the video guy actually ran out of tape so the great applause is lost forever.Don’t call it Stand Up… call it Sit Down.Better yet put him in the bathroom and call it a shit down.

  14. sigmaalgebra

    Here’s an associated business: Show people how to cook.I know; I know; I know; there is a gigantic industry of cookbooks, actually a huge fraction of all the book industry. Maybe each day there are more new cookbooks published than there are grains of rice sold.Still, there is a need.Back when I got my first apartment, I wanted to learn to cook, enough to feed myself and occasionally a few guests. Simple objective? Right? I made As in high school and college chemistry so should be able to learn to cook, right?Nope.Why? My guess at an explanation is that cookbooks are published by the book publishing industry — obviously. That industry is overrun, infested, dominated, controlled, etc. by ex-English majors who want to write/publish a ‘great American novel’ and just LOVE F. Scott Fitzgerald — drunk or sober. They want, they love, they worship ‘belles-lettre’. They dream in the old English poetry of Shakespeare. They lust after each word of Joyce Carol Oates (whoever she is/was — how do I know; I’m a nerd).So, when those book publishing editors can’t find another Fitzgerald, they swallow their pride and publish cookbooks. Uh, for another Fitzgerald, just get a case of a dozen fifths of whiskey and drink as fast as you can — you should get there in a day or two.Their goal: More communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion, all the good things, even wonders, e.g., praise and admiration of your dinner guests, that would follow if the reader actually knew how to cook. But, like 99 44/100% of the rest of fiction, of course, their books are just fantasy and do not show people how to cook.My now solid conclusion: Cookbooks are to sell fantasy, not teach people how to cook.More specifically, and in simple terms, what’s wrong with published cookbooks is that the ones that get published by the belles-lettre industry are written with an absolute revulsion, even a phobia, about anything actually instructional.To be clear, okay: Crucial criteria, necessary but not sufficient, include times, temperatures, weights, volumes, that is, times accurately measured in minutes and seconds, by an accurate time keeping device, temperatures, in degrees F or C (and don’t refuse to indicate which), accurately measured by an accurate thermometer, with weights and volumes treated similarly. For more, can we talk pH? Viscosity?I’m being nice enough to set aside calculus, the heat equation, latent heat of evaporation, measuring the power output in Watts of stove top burners, etc.Okay, we need an example. Okay, beef stew. Right, the usual kitchen gossip is that stewing can make even shoe leather tender, juicy, ‘succulent’, etc. Just have the water bubbling only slowly, etc. Right? We’ve all read such stuff.So, I tried it. Net, it didn’t work. I followed instructions of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, the NYT, other cookbooks, etc. I wasted a lot of time, money, ingredients, and calories. There is a beef industry trade group, and I wrote them and got back an answer — use chuck roast, not bottom round. But, no mention of temperature.I tried off and on for years. Consistent disaster. I did very careful work with olive oil, garlic, onions, carrots, beef, red wine, etc. — all a total waste. Bummer.Maybe it was good that there was no cookbook publisher in my neighborhood when I had yet another failed effort at beef stew while I had a razor sharp, 11″ chef’s knife in my hand. Ah, they likely wouldn’t cook up better than beef roast anyway. :-)!Finally from various sources, no, not really from Nathan Myhrvold, not even from books on on ‘food chemistry’, I saw some rough ideas and began to get a basic understanding. Here’s the secret (we’re talking an SUV packed full of wasted ingredients and years of off and on trials with a 100% failure rate): Just do not, ever, under any circumstances, no matter what the advice in a cookbook, ever, ever, ever permit beef to get over 160 F. Don’t do it.Why? The rough theory is that over 160 F the proteins will contract, expel their water, and turn dark, become dry and brittle, and from then on never, ever become tender or anything like succulent. Once I kept a pot going for 96 hours waiting for the beef to become tender — I ended up with something much like chunks of charcoal.More of the rough secret: The muscle fibers are always tender. The ‘tough’ part is collagen. The goal is to melt out the collagen without over heating the muscle fibers. Collagen starts to melt at about 140 F. It can take hours at between 140 and 160 F to melt out the collagen.That’s the secret to beef stew.Of course, one tool needed is a lab like, controlled constant temperature water bath where can set and get a particular temperature. Any recipe about beef stew that omits this little point is junk. I have yet to see a recipe for beef stew that is not junk.Yes, my version of the ‘secret’ may be close to some of what Myhrvold and others have been doing with ‘sous vide’.Now wherever cookbooks are sold, I can get a big laugh: Just pick up a book with lots of glossy paper, lots of gorgeous pictures, lots of flowery words about images of hearth and home via beef stew, see no mention of a constant temperature bath, or anything on temperature in degrees F or C, laugh, and realize that the belles-lettre publishing industry has yet again filled a much needed gap in the literature and created materials that would be illuminating if ignited. Are they getting kickbacks from the grocery industry for all the ingredients they are causing people to waste?There’s more; I used beef stew as just an example.Net, published cookbooks are for fantasy, not cooking.I’ve finally learned some cooking, mostly teaching myself via trial, error, adjustment, iteration, and occasionally I learn a little more from various sources.Still, I’d like some materials on cooking that are deliberately instructional, highly competent, quite precise, with a lot of emphasis on times, temperatures, weights, and volumes, all carefully measured. Sorry belles-lettre publishing editors — you will just hate anything I would find at all useful. If you like it, I won’t. Same for TV cooking shows, but I haven’t had one of my old TV sets plugged into the TV set top box that came from my ISP in 2+ years so am less pissed off at TV cooking shows.Much of the future of ‘media’ is cases of ‘specialization’, that is, niche audiences. One of those audiences will be good instructional materials, not fantasy, on cooking for people who actually want to cook and, more importantly, and possibly surprisingly, actually eat the results and find them good. Shocking concept!Exercise: How to take a nice velouté, add egg yolks, heavy cream, and butter, heat it, and have it not separate?Exercise: How to cook the dishes in a moderately good, inexpensive US Chinese carryout restaurant? What they do is really difficult, right? Nope. Easy to find out how, right? Nope. Mostly just by trial and error I made good progress with Moo Shu, but what I have could be much better.Exercise: How to use butter instead of hydrogenated vegetable oil (likely trans fat) shortening in pastry crust, i.e., not really real ‘puff pastry’.Exercise: Once we get past the basics of not just ruining good ingredients, obviously already an objective way beyond the cookbook publishing and TV cooking show industry, how can work actually to get good results, in flavor, texture, appearance? Yes, a start is inGray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky, ‘The Elements of Taste’, ISBN 0-316-60874-2, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 2001.but more is needed.Exercise: Let’s get some things a bit more clear, detailed, and complete than Escoffier on how to make really good brown beef stock? Retired dairy cows should be about the best, right? For this, I should drive over to a slaughter house in Pennsylvania and buy boxes of, say, shin bones, 50 pounds at a time?Exercise: I want an orange glaze for the top of a pastry, with inside, say, some orange butter cream and the cake soaked with a sugar syrup with (a current version of what used to be) Grand Marnier. The glaze should be opaque, the saturated orange color of a bright orange, glossy, sticky, and flavorful. How to do that?Once in the Library of Congress I stumbled onto a huge book in German intended for instructional material for a German trade school course in pastry; since I didn’t then appreciate what I had in my hand, I neglected to make a note of the title. But the book looked very through and precise, maybe a good place to learn how to make such an orange glaze. And it might have helped me with my struggles, somewhat successful, with ‘Sacher Torte’ and ‘Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte’!Not an Exercise: Don’t have to teach me how to make salad dressing for a good Caesar salad — I’ve got that one nailed! It’s darned good!

  15. Warren Schierenbeck

    I’m at a 40% profit. Each party is different, some I break even, others I kill it. I look at the business as a whole. Week, month, quarter. Year.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Do you usually work alone, or do you bring help?And do you also work in a restaurant or do you do this full time? I’d think this would conflict with most restaurant work.

      1. Warren Schierenbeck

        I use help when needed. In regards to other work, Kitchensurfing keeps me as busy as I want

    2. LE

      some I break evenWhat are the specifics of when you only break even? Why can’t you adjust your pricing to be profitable on every job?

      1. Warren Schierenbeck

        If it’s a job for 4 or less the price Orr head would be to high to attract any customers. Example. Transportation to site can range from $50 to $150 depending on location. Including gas and tolls Ingredients are a minimum of $100 per 4 people I have a commercial kitchen space that is $1600 per month, so $50 per day. Business insurance, utilities we can round off to $15 per day. Kitchensurfing gets 10%. I need to make a profit. Is $200 per day a fair wage for my experience , knowledge, sweat etc We are now at $500 plus just to get paid a few bucks. Most people will not pay $500 for dinners of 4. But if you balance that with a party the next for 100 of passed items for $2k. Your doing great. Food cost on that is $200, all other expenses are fixed

        1. William Mougayar

          Wow, so food costs are only 10%?

          1. Warren Schierenbeck

            Every party is different. Smaller parties the food could be 50%. Big number parties the cost could be 5%

          2. William Mougayar

            thanks for the info Warren.

        2. LE

          If it’s a job for 4 or less the price Orr head would be to high to attract any customers.It would make more sense to quote your pricing as a fixed cost plus per person. People will focus on the cost per person as the value and the fixed cost they will be more likely to justify and eat.That’s only if there is a compelling reason to even do things that small.Feel free to write to me if you want more details..

          1. Warren Schierenbeck

            Cash flow is a compelling factor. You can hold your breadth for the big whale parties once or twice a month or you can stay busy, keep your people working and do smaller events for a smaller margin

  16. Warren Schierenbeck

    Some work is taken just for cash flow

  17. Alex Wolf

    My mother catered for a while and it’s back breaking (she was above 50) if you do most of it yourself. I love the kitchensurfing idea as a more personal, informal version of catering. Not sure where people draw that line now though, besides the name/brand Kitchensurf.

  18. Parkite

    This would play well in park city and other ski resort towns.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      I wonder if Fred has used it at his ski house.

      1. fredwilson

        i have. it was great

  19. ShanaC

    om nom nom.But seriously, interesting. I can see this turning into a bunch of things, if only because cooking is a lot of work (I spend a lot of time cooking when I am not working)

  20. Steven Cruz

    Fred,I’ve used the service twice and let me tell you best investment I could have ever done. First time was for valentines day and my girlfriend and her friends were definitely talking about how grand of a gift it was … little did they know (at the time) Kitchensurfing did all of the vetting and most of the meal compilation. More importantly, the chef we hired really resonated with the community component USV invests in. Our chef created a 5 star dining experience by communicating with his guests … this surprise was also done in a college dorm room.

  21. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Somehow this has reminded me of the time I spent as a ‘Meals on Wheels’ volunteer – I’d spend each Sunday driving around our area delivering hot/healthy meals to the old/housebound. Very emotionally rewarding work.

  22. george

    It’s great to have reasonable pricing and menu options. I’m surprised google hasn’t tried to replicate this model for many specialized industries – seems so obvious…