In its quest to turn the culinary talents of passionate home cooks into small businesses, Shef, a chef-to-consumer marketplace, is now taking those efforts nationwide.
Shef works with local cooks making authentic, homemade dishes and provides them with business tools, like menu formation and pricing, photography, how to create their bios and how to market and promote themselves. Because a lot of the “shefs” have not sold food before, the company also requires extensive food safety training and certification during the onboarding process.
TechCrunch profiled the company in 2021 when it raised a $20 million Series A and was only in seven cities. Today, the San Francisco-based company operates in 11 states plus Washington, D.C., reaching 70 million people, said co-founder and CEO Joey Grassia, who started the company with Alvin Salehi in 2019.
Thousands of “shefs” are now using the platform — 85% of whom are women and 80% people of color — and many are immigrants or refugees cooking homemade dishes representing nearly 100 countries. In the past four years, Shef has facilitated the serving of approximately 3 million dishes and helps “shefs” bring in tens of millions of dollars in net income, Grassia said. He declined to go into more specifics as to the company’s growth.
“We had a ‘shef’ last year earning nearly $400,000 on the platform, which is a record for us,” he said. “We now have ‘shefs’ earning six figures on the platform across all of our markets, which is incredible to see. Their businesses continue to grow and our business continues to grow.”
The company’s now national expansion is driven mainly by the passage of laws in all 50 states, as of 2022, that enable the sale of certain types of homemade food. Shef, which mainly stuck to urban areas in the past, is now prepared to help some 12,000 people on its waitlist, many in suburban and rural areas, join the marketplace.
Also elevating those expansion efforts is a $73.5 million Series B round of funding that the company closed in June 2022 and only now announced, Grassia said. In total, the company has raised more than $100 million. The round was led by CRV with participation from Andreessen Horowitz and Amex Ventures. It also included $7 million in venture debt.
In addition to the expansion, Shef will grow its engineering team as it focuses on product development, including new discovery and meal preference and customization features for consumers.
When asked why announce the round now, Grassia said, “We ended up kicking off the raise in late 2021 when CRV came on board and closed out the round in early 2022, but then we came across great investors who wanted to be part of the journey and could add a lot of value, we kept the investment round open. Then we were heads-down building the operations for national expansion.”
Other investors in the Series B include celebrity chefs Andrew Zimmern, Carla Hall, Kristen Kish and Nyesha Arrington; athletes Russell Westbrook, Odell Beckham Jr. and Candace Parker; comedians Jimmy O. Yang and Lilly Singh; entrepreneur Tony Robbins, Visa CFO Vasant Prabhu, AngelList founder Naval Ravikant, Poshmark founder Manish Chandra and former Airbnb executives Belinda Johnson and Joe Zadeh.
“With the expansion, more people who need access to income opportunities can join Shef,” Grassia said. “On the demand side, we can now provide more access to healthy, high-quality, affordable meals, whereas in these more rural and suburban areas that is hard to come by.”