New food delivery app serves up fare from Toronto home chefs

A new food app is delivering home cooking from diverse chefs across Toronto to those hungry for authentic international cuisine as well as local favourites. Dilshad Burman reports.

By Dilshad Burman

There’s a new food delivery app in town and it’s serving diverse fare from one Toronto home’s kitchen to another’s dining table.

Cookin’ is a platform where both home chefs and culinary professionals can offer homemade food to those hungry for authentic international cuisine as well as local favourites.

“What you find on the Cookin’ platform is stories about individual food creators who are telling us that they [perhaps] recently came to Canada. They bring their recipes, their cultures … and their love for food and they’re putting it into their food creations,” explains co-founder and CEO Morley Ivers. “We’re enabling some of the most talented cooks in the city of Toronto to take their tradecraft for making food and turn their home kitchen into a source of economic stimulus for themselves and for their families,”

The idea is to channel raw culinary talent into a viable small business. Chefs keep up to 85 per cent of the revenue generated from food sales and Ivers says all they have to focus on is cooking.

“[They can] do what they love and what they’re incredibly good at and we take care of everything else — the packaging, the marketing, the delivery, the customer service, even the financials in terms of paying them out on a weekly basis,” he says.

The app also includes a charitable component. For every order placed on Cookin’, the company will donate a portion of its profits to The Stop – a local non-profit organization that works to combat food insecurity in the city.

“At the very core of our business model is this idea that talented cooks are practicing their tradecraft and nourishing others who can afford to buy a meal,” says Ivers. “But I think it was important for our team to recognize that there are many amongst us in the community who are challenged by food insecurity.”

Natasha Quagliato was among the first chef’s to sign up to sell on the app during its soft launch, which now has over 600 food providers.

“I think this helps a lot of home chefs to sell their food and sell what they love to do,” she says

Natasha Quagliato cooks in her home kitchen and sells her dishes on the Cookin' food delivery app.

Natasha Quagliato is seen in her home kitchen as she prepares an order placed on the Cookin’ food delivery app. Credit: Cookin’.

Quagliato works in the restaurant industry, but is also a seasoned home chef, passionate about sharing food from her Brazilian-Italian heritage.

“Every food that I make, I put a lot of love, so that when people eat, they feel that love — and that’s something we don’t have in restaurants.” she says.

Quagliato says she enjoys the freedom the app gives her to create dishes she loves and wants to introduce people to and the independence to do it on her terms.

“In the hospitality industry, you need to work on the weekends until 2 .a.m [for example], and I’ve been working that and this is something I don’t want for my life,” she says. “This helps a lot because … it gives me freedom to choose when I want to work, the days that I want to work and what I want to [cook].”

She’s also excited about the opportunity to give fellow Brazilians a taste of home.

“As an immigrant we miss [our families and home] a lot,” she says, visibly emotional. “So I can provide people this experience that they used to have back home.”

The app requires food providers to have an Ontario food handler’s certificate and they must pass regular virtual inspections of their home kitchen every quarter. If they’re not set up to cook from home or prefer not to, the company provides access to a commercial kitchen and the take-home percentage drops to 70 per cent to cover costs.

Pillar Walsh, a veteran professional chef of 14 years, says she prefers to use the commercial kitchen for the extra breathing room and also to maintain separation between work life and home life.

“The space alone is a big big factor – a lot of home cooks are in tiny spots. So it’s a good way to branch out more, use this space to see what it is to operate on a restaurant level,” she says. “Home is a little bit more private. You have your family, your partner there and then your house smells like food all the time.”

Pillar Walsh operates out of the Cookin' commercial kitchen to cook dishes delivered via the food delivery app.

Pillar Walsh serves up Memphis style barbecue on the Cookin’ food delivery app. CITYNEWS/Dilshad Burman

When the pandemic hit, Pillar was the head chef at a local Roncesvalles restaurant. She had to pivot her career like many professional chefs who were swept up in the mass lay offs in the restaurant industry.

“During the pandemic I did start doing cooking for a bunch of people in the neighbourhood and anyone that wanted to buy the food. I kept doing that for the next two years,” she says. “When I heard about Cookin’ I was like, this would be a great [platform] for me to showcase what I can offer.”

Walsh says she comes from a big Jamaican family of women who are talented cooks and she learned most of what she knows from them. However, she’s passionate about barbecue and serves up Memphis style ribs, chicken and other delicacies, all made from scratch.

“The spice rubs are made by me, the barbecue sauce is made by me, roasts – everything is just made by me,” she says.

Her dream is to one day own her own restaurant and says the Cookin’ app is a big stepping stone towards making it come true.

“Anyone that’s tried my food, they love it, they want to see it be a mass, big production thing, and I think this is a great start for me to see where I can go and [what I can] develop into.”

The Cookin’ app is currently available on the Apple Store and Google Play for customers in Toronto and expansion plans are in the works for early next year.

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