A new startup aims to bring fine dining directly to Spokane-area residents’ tables.
A group of local entrepreneurs on Tuesday launched Bookoo Chef, a website and app that pairs Inland Northwest private chefs with customers looking to host in-home dining events.
Customers can search and make reservations for chefs on the platform by cuisine, availability and price. They can also view menus, read chef bios and survey reviews.
“A benefit of Bookoo Chef is we make it safe for hosts to throw a party because we vet chefs and make the process easier for booking,” said Noah Botnick, Bookoo Chef co-founder and president of ScannedMedia Creative Marketing.
Bookoo Chef currently has more than 20 chefs signed up for the platform, Botnick said.
Bookoo Chef’s other co-founders include Justin O’Neill, a private chef and senior enterprise account executive at Spiceology; Chris Allred, CEO of ScannedMedia Creative Marketing; and Matt Goodwin, restaurateur and owner of Goodwin Group, whose portfolio includes Brick West Brewing Co., Volstead Act and the Backyard Public House.
Spokane attorney Mack Mayo is a fifth partner who serves as legal counsel for the business, but is not involved in day-to-day operations, said Botnick.
Bookoo Chef’s service area encompasses locations within a 90-minute driving distance of Spokane – including Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene – but chefs are able to choose the distance they are willing to travel for events, Botnick said.
Chefs determine pricing for dining events, which typically start at $70 per person, Botnick said
Bookoo Chef takes a 15% to 20% cut of the total booking cost, he added.
Bookoo Chef is operating out of ScannedMedia’s offices at 1401 N. Monroe St., which also serves as headquarters for Botnick and Allred’s other business, Spokane Salad Delivery.
Because the building has a commercial kitchen, there is potential to use it for Bookoo Chef events and cooking classes, Botnick said.
The idea for Bookoo Chef was sparked during the pandemic as patrons shifted from dining in restaurants to eating more meals at home.
As a Spiceology account executive, O’Neill was selling spices to hotels, restaurants and resorts. But when the pandemic forced temporary closure of restaurants in March 2020, O’Neill picked up private chef work for in-home dining events.
“I would pick up events here and there and (business grew) just by word-of-mouth,” said O’Neill, who was previously a chef for Goodwin’s restaurant group. “I ended up having to turn people down and thought, ‘We shouldn’t have to turn people down. This should be much easier for them.’ ”
O’Neill approached Goodwin about creating a centralized booking system for private chefs.
Goodwin subsequently reached out to Botnick and Allred to build the Bookoo Chef platform.
“In Spokane, there’s a lot of chefs who aren’t recognized. Bookoo Chef gives them the ability to show off their skills, make some money, do some stuff on the side and really perfect their skills,” Botnick said.
O’Neill echoed the platform is a “game changer” for chefs who can make upward of $1,000 a month for events. In addition, Bookoo Chef provides a unique dining experience for customers, he added.
“I’m extremely excited for the launch and to be able to make this more accessible for customers,” O’Neill said.
“We’re still in the COVID era, even though we don’t have to wear masks now, and in-home dining has been growing exponentially,” O’Neill continued. “People are finding they would rather have 10 of their friends over at their house than being around 200 people at a restaurant.”
Bookoo Chef’s founders aim to expand the platform to additional markets that may include Seattle, Miami, San Diego and Las Vegas later this year with plans for a nationwide rollout in the future, Botnick said.
“Our hope is to go nationwide,” Botnick said. “We will probably raise money to push this thing forward. We are all passionate about this product. Anytime you create something new and create disruption in the market, it’s a good thing.”