Culture Kitchen recruits immigrants to share recipes for cooking kits

Culture Kitchen co-founders Abby Sturges and Jennifer Lopez want to share treasured recipes that have been passed down through generations of families. The San Francisco-based startup has turned home-cooking expertise into a viable small business.

Full disclosure: I was enrolled in a design and business class with the founders at Stanford.

Culture Kitchen connects foodies with local cooks willing to share tantalizing, home-cooked, ethnic food. “These are men and women who have immigrated to the US and brought with them their incredible generations old recipes,” the team explains on its Kickstarter page. “No fancy chefs here, just really passionate people who love cooking and love sharing their culture through food.”

The founders hope to raise $150,000 on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. In the first 24 hours since launching the funding page, they have already received over $8,000 in financing. If successful, they plan to develop six new cooking kits, which will include live videos filled with advice from the chefs. In the current form, the pre-packaged kits contain all the ingredients, 3 recipes with step-by-step directions and photos, and personal mementos from the cooks.

Culture Kitchen’s co-founders, mother’s with no formal training, spend months compiling recipes and rooting out hard-to-find ingredients for the kits. Place an order through the company’s website, and learn to cook Paloma’s Poblano Mole or Suchrita’s Chicken Tikka — personalization is core to the user experience. Included are tips and tricks from the chefs, so you’ll feel like you’ve inherited a family recipe.

Above: Culture Kitchen’s co-founders, Jennifer Lopez and Abby Sturges

When I knew the two at Stanford, they were focused on organizing cooking classes to bring a second income to women who loved to cook, mainly drawn from nearby neighborhoods like East Palo Alto. Meanwhile, wealthy students from the university with limited skills in the kitchen were eagerly participating in the cooking classes, often held in local community centers. Suddenly, the smell of pumpkin curry was wafting through dorm rooms, replacing the usual ramen and Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

“Students often left classes inspired to go recreate dishes at home,” said Sturges in an interview with VentureBeat. “Sadly, they would report that they weren’t able to navigate the ethnic markets we sent them to and couldn’t get the ingredients they needed.”

This feedback inspired the team to eke out a new model to scale the business. Now they work with 15 master chefs and send kits to hundreds of subscribers on a monthly basis. It’s great for a dinner party of 4 to 6 people, or you could make like Jolie O’Dell (our resident domestic goddess) and singlehandedly prepare a week’s worth of recipes.

In a foodie city like San Francisco, we are inundated with options. Why choose to order a kit through Culture Kitchen? The founders feel they are onto something unique with the subscription model and the mingling of cooking and culture. “You know we all eat every day, and some of us cook every day.  That felt like such an untapped opportunity, taking the mundane activity and super charging it with meaning,” said Lopez.

Image courtesy of The Peninsula Press

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