Cookstr Helps You Find Recipes From People Who Know Their Onions

Here’s one thing that people all over the world will continue to need even in the worst of recessions: food. And while there are many places you can go to if you want to discover great recipes for home cooking, Cookstr is launching a website later tonight at a press event in New York City that takes a different route than all the cluttered and user-generated content sites out there: it’s all about the top chefs and cookbook authors, baby.

Cookstr has managed to sign up over 200 star chefs, cookbook authors and publishers who contribute to a database of high-quality recipes for a wide variety of dishes, with more being added every day (both chefs and recipes). The contributor list is impressive, to say the least, including people like Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, Nigella Lawson, Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Alice Waters … the list just goes on and on.

The site, which has just been opened up a couple of minutes ago, features a nice interface and a powerful engine for searching recipes and information about the chefs, with menus and ‘tips & techniques’ coming soon. There are a lot of ways to search for great recipes: by main ingredients, cuisine, occasion, method, etc., and once you start looking there’s an intuitive filter in the left sidebar that helps you narrow down your search to find the right recipe.

(CenterNetworks recorded a demo by CEO Will Schwalbe recently at a NY Tech Meetup you might want to check out)

Other than that, the site is intentionally clean; there’s currently only a print button for recipes and a way for people to send recipes to friends by e-mail. Soon you will be able to create your own MyCookstr, where you’ll be able to save recipes, notes, and shopping lists. More community features are also on the works.

Business model, you asked? Cookstr plans to integrate advertising in the beginning of 2009, and as a recent NY Times article on the startup points out, they’ll also be collecting affiliate revenue when books are sold on e-commerce sites via their website.

Cookstr is completely bootstrapped by its founder and CEO Will Schwalbe, who stepped down as editor in chief of Hyperion Books in January 2008, and was co-developed by New York incubator Tipping Point Partners. The company is actively looking for funding to take the web service to a new level, which I’m pretty sure they’ll find based on what they’ve already accomplished on a shoestring budget.

That said, Cookstr is up against some stiff competition from well-known recipe databases that are less high-end but offer an adequate solution for many home cookers, such as FoodNetwork (owned by Scribbs), AllRecipes (owned by Reader’s Digest), Yahoo Recipes, Epicurious (owned by Conde Nast), (owned by Hearst Communications), and so on. It’s not that there’s not an audience: comScore reported earlier that food sites attracted 45.6 million unique visitors in September, more than double the rate of total Internet growth in the United States.

Cookstr is also looking to expand the service internationally.