NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Want a fine-dining experience in your home, but don't have the time, effort or energy to attempt it, nor access to top chefs who'll swing by and whip it up? All is not lost. TravelsinTaste looks to Kitchit, a website that connects members with the most talented and creative local chefs to craft individualized, full-service "bespoke" dining experiences in their homes. The site even helps plan the event, coordinating rentals and decor and emailing invitations.
Co-founded by Brendan Marshall, Ian Ferguson and George Tang, this Web-based culinary community just launched in New York City (following San Francisco and Los Angeles last year) and allows guests to work one on one with the area's finest chefs, including Dan Kluger of the James Beard Award-winning ABC Kitchen. Kitchit allows members to customize their event by target price, head count and date; the website displays results for chefs who fit the criteria. Its roster includes such culinary icons as Jason Lawless of Tocqueville, Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill, Harold Dieterle of Perilla and Traci des Jardins of Jardiniere.
The company says it seeks out professional chefs who strike a balance between precise food and friendly service, primarily those who have worked renowned restaurants and private homes. "All of our chefs are hand-picked, meaning that our chef network team personally vets each and every chef that is on our platform," Tang says. "For some chefs, their reputation precedes them -- it would be downright silly for us to 'vet' the likes of Dan Kluger and Christopher Kostow -- and for others, we do whatever we need to do to ensure that these chefs can uphold our high standards, whether it means an in-person interview, a tasting or having a member of our chef team shadow the candidate on an outside event." Experiences range from casual get-togethers to no-expense-spared events, Tang says, giving an example: "A group of friends who haven't seen each other in a while and want to catch up over a nice dinner. They are looking for something unique and interesting, and Kitchit is the perfect solution. They bring their own wine, interact with the chef about their food and have a great time without having to lift a finger."
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"On occasion we hear from our members, 'I can't wait for an excuse to use Kitchit,' but the truth is, you really don't need a special occasion," Ferguson says. "In fact I think you're better off without one. Nothing beats a 'just because' get-together where there's no agenda, plenty of good food and free-flowing wine. So I love seeing requests from people who say 'I just want to hang out with my friends, away from the hustle and bustle, and share some good stories.'" Tang and Ferguson agreed to answer some questions about the business. How did you come up with the idea for Kitchit? Tang: Kitchit came from a shared passion for food and having great experiences. In talking to the chefs and consumers, we realized that there was an opportunity to connect them and create unique, intimate dining experiences like never before. We also realized that by building a compelling and powerful product, we could speak to both the needs of the chefs as well as the hungry diners. It was an opportunity that we were all extremely excited about from day one. Why did you want to get into the events business with restaurant chefs? Tang: We want to give restaurant chefs an opportunity to go beyond the four walls of a restaurant. It's an opportunity for them to build customized menus, interact directly with people and create bespoke dining experiences. These chefs are artists in their own right, and we want to give them as much opportunity to express themselves in their food and service as possible. Why do you think it has had such success on the West Coast? Tang: The chefs on the West Coast reflect very accurately the food culture of the West Coast, and people naturally gravitate toward that. We believe that it's a new and accessible way to eat, facilitated by technology that enables the entire experience to be very easy and seamless. Why New York City, and why now? Tang: We've been hearing countless requests from people in New York who were really excited for us to come, more so than any other city. It's to the point where it would be almost criminal for us not to come to New York. We want to give our customers what they want! Ferguson: As a Manhattan native, I've been fielding requests for our New York City launch since day one. And it's not just my friends who have been asking me to hurry up and get here. Their parents, too, are champing at the bit. And the word of mouth has just grown from there -- so much so, in fact, that we're opening up shop in New York well before we'd planned just to accommodate the demand. I feel really lucky that we've reached this point so quickly.