Things That Matter

The ‘Shef’ App Is Helping Out Of Work Migrants And Refugees Bring Their Traditional Foods Right To Your Door

Once the pandemic hit, many people were left out of work and scrambling for ways to earn much-needed cash. As the need grew, some people turned to technology to help some of the most vulnerable in our community earn money doing what they loved.

Apps began popping up that empowered out of work chefs to sell their traditional family recipes and creations on their platforms, delivering food to customers all over the country. The Shef app was born out of the need from casual home cooks to out of work professionals who had lost their income. And they continue to grow as more people sign up to use the exciting platform!

Shef launched during the pandemic to help out of work chefs.

A very large percentage of workers in the food industry are people of color, which meant many migrants and refugees were initially hit the hardest financially at the start of the pandemic. Shef launched as a marketplace meant to help these out of work food workers – and even casual home cooks – connect with new customers, handle orders and get the food delivered.

Shef co-CEOs Alvin Salehi and Joey Grassia share similar upbringings with both of their parents immigrating to the United States. With Salehi’s parents immigrating from Iran and Grassia’s from Italy, they bonded over their experience as first-generation Americans and explored how their experiences in policy and food could help newcomers to the United States.

“My parents escaped from Iran around the time of the Iranian revolution. They came here with nothing in their pockets, no language skills and fell on some pretty hard times,” Salehi, who spent much of his childhood living in a motel, told Forbes. “Things changed when my parents finally were able to save up enough money to create a business, and that business was a restaurant.”

How does the platform work for both the chefs and customers?

Shef is a platform very similar to Airbnb – except with food. Chefs must apply to the platform and have their kitchens pass a through certification process. These rules vary from city to city based on local food safety laws.

Once they’re approved for the platform, chefs can setup their profile, add a menu, and feature dishes with detailed lists of ingredients – which makes it easy for customers to know what they’re getting. Those hankering for home cooking will find a wide variety of cuisines to choose from, including Shanghainese, Bangladeshi, Maldivian and more. The company estimates some ‘shefs’ make an average of $1,000 per week.

For chefs like Tania, the platform has been a way to not only make money but also to share her family’s traditions.

“The memories that evoke me to cook are the smoke from the open fire, and upholding my mama and abuelita’s cooking of traditional Mayan dishes at family gatherings. Ko’ox janal! Let’s go to eat!” shef Tania shared in a post on Instagram.

For now, the company operates in just a few areas of California and New York.

We’re living the age of apps, everything from Airbnb to Etsy help connect buyers directly with sellers, so a platform that sells home-cooked food seems like an obvious win. But for apps like Shef, their growth is partially limited thanks to restrictive laws that limit home cook’s ability to create and sell perishable foods from home.

But things are starting to change. In 2019, California passed the California Homemade Food Act and that was amended to include hot food that can legally be sold from a home, as opposed to just home-cooked baked goods and other foods that do not require refrigeration, paving the way for Shef’s California operations.

However, in the rest of the country, including in New York, home chefs must still use commercial kitchens, which Shef helps facilitate.

Would you give the Shef app a try? Let us know in the comments section!

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