Oren Saar knows there’s nothing quite like a fresh, home-cooked meal.
Originally from Israel, where he spent five years as an officer in the Army, Saar now resides in New York City with his family. In 2019, Saar was missing home and craving authentic Israeli dishes like the ones his parents used to make.
When he found a home chef who did just that, Saar felt at home again. He had a lightbulb moment: Why couldn’t everyone have home-cooked food on demand?
“Feeling at home is the best feeling, and I wanted other people to experience that,” he says. WoodSpoon, his on-demand, meal-ordering app for home-cooked food, launched in March 2019. It connects home chefs to nearby consumers.
After two years of success in Manhattan, WoodSpoon expanded to Hoboken and Jersey City in early January, and plans to expand around the country.
With WoodSpoon, home chefs are able to share dishes with their community. What inspired that?
Oren Saar: When I first began the idea, I was immediately looking at the diner perspective of getting a home-cooked meal. But this is not only a tool for diners. It is empowering home chefs to make a living and continue their craft. We are helping a lot of people start their own businesses and build their brands. During the pandemic, a lot of restaurant workers lost their jobs, but we were able to help a lot of people with WoodSpoon.
How did you bring this about?
We started as an app, and the main thing was home-cooked food on demand. If you want to be in the big leagues, you have to compete with a lot of delivery platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash and Grubhub. It was obvious that an app was where we needed to play.
How have the WoodSpoon home chefs been doing?
It’s amazing, the relationships forming between customers and chefs. For example, we have a chef, Kevin, and he makes really great food, but we can see the relationship he is building with his customers. People can give him feedback on dishes, and he and other chefs can give customers new dishes to try. It’s like having your own personal chef who knows you and your order.
Why did you decide to expand to Jersey?
We know the demographic in New Jersey is very similar to New York City. We also received a lot of requests from home chefs in Jersey City and Hoboken to join us. We had chefs and customers, so we knew we should do it. We hope to expand to other areas of Jersey in the future.
What is the process for home chefs who want to share their food on WoodSpoon?
There is a very thorough vetting process. We start with a one-on-one call with the chef and our team to verify their experience and see if they are a good fit for our platform. Then we go through kitchen inspections, food handling certificates and other things we need them to have before they start. Then we have a dedicated team to help them build their menu. We take all the logistics out of the chefs’ hands so they just need to focus on cooking really great food and building their brands.
How does the delivery system work?
We started small on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I did all the deliveries by riding my bicycle. Now we work with our own WoodSpoon drivers as well as other companies that can do deliveries for us. We have our own operations team that manages all the deliveries.
What kinds of meals are available in Jersey City and Hoboken?
It’s a giant catalog, very international. You will see American chefs, but also Middle Eastern, Asian and more, like Suriname and Dominican Republic, that you won’t usually find at a restaurant. People are constantly looking for the most unique food experience, and what we do is bring that to people on demand.
Are you looking for new chefs?
Yes, we are always looking! We have a pretty strict process, but if people are good and want to join and love making great food, this is the place for you. We have a full team, and their only care is to help people succeed.
What are your hopes for WoodSpoon?
We want to keep expanding our brand and reach as many home chefs and customers as we can. Our plan is to expand into other locations on both the East and West Coast. In our line of work, it’s hard to celebrate wins because we’re always working on the next step. It’s humbling to see the company grow and help home chefs. A few weeks ago it was a chef’s birthday, and when I wished him a happy birthday, he told me I had changed his life. Making a difference in people’s lives is just the best thing I can hope for.
Click here to leave a comment