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Cookin is an App That May Change the Way You Eat

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

by Andrew Chalk

Update 2023-08-21: Third time... is a charm. The Cookin app. kept me informed of my order. The driver brought it to the door and handed it over. It was in the delivery window so things appear to have turned around.

For today's dinner, I ordered from one of the new vendors to appear this week. The Migoni Kitchen (@TheMigoniKitchen) specializes in one of my favorite food groups -- empanadas. Owners Summer & Marcelo produce a range of seven types of empanadas and four sauces. When I ordered (with several hours notice) they had already sold out of two. I ordered four types and it was enough to feed three or four people: Empanadas Tucumanas de Matambre, 3pc ($12), Empanadas de Pollo, 3pcs ($12), Empanadas de Atun y Camaron, 3pcs ($14), and Empanadas de Choclo, 3pcs ($12). I was ordering in such a hurry that I totally missed their dessert Alfajores, 4pcs ($9). They are totally cravable shortcake-like pastries filled with luciously sweet dulce de leche. Summer & Marcelo took pity on me and included some! Great loyalty move! All recommended.

Update 2023-08-20: Last week, I placed two orders. The first one was a delivery disaster, as described below. I should say that after the first experience, Cookin reached out and apologised without excuses. This did not meet their intended standards of service.

The other order was for delivery today, Sunday, at 5pm, from Samarcus Palmer's Animunchez Kitchen.

4:40pm: Text from Cookin that my order was on its way. Great!

4:50pm: Text from a different Cookin person that announced my order was "on track for delivery at about 6pm". That was an hour later than ordered.

4:56pm: Phone call from caller ID DoorDash who turned out to be the deliverer (dasher) and asked me where my house was. I asked what address she had, and she read out an address which I pointed out was wrong. When I asked her to repeat it, the address had changed. In other words, either magic occurred and my delivery address changed on her list, or getting the address right was a detail that DoorDash 'dashers' don't seem to realize is important. DoorDash delivered my first order to the wrong address, and seemed about to do so with my second.

When I asked the dasher where she was, she said "Cole Avenue". Cole, as Dallasites know, is several miles long and it was at this point I realizerd that she intended to treat me as her Google Assistant or Siri until visual flight rules took over. I told her to use Google maps and hung up (I had not planned an afternoon with a gigantic pool of free time to guide people who were too lazy to plot a route).

5:04pm: Phone call from caller ID Private Number by an agent with sketchy English that the dasher "could not find my house". Please call them back (no number given). What a system. I think she was with DoorDash, which seems to think that people order food for delivery at a specific time because they don't care about the food or the time.

5:15pm: The front door bell rang, I walked the 20 feet to it and opened it. I found a bag containing my food on the step. No dasher in sight (she must have been in a dash). When ordering, Cookin offers the customer an option to have delivery on the front step or have it handed over in person. I understand that both can make sense and I had checked the latter. The reasons are very important. First, one thing you learn from living in Dallas is that front step delivery exists to permit thieves easy access to your packages (I pay for a private mailbox for precisely that reason). Second, it was 108F and I did not want the food spoiling in the heat.

Samarcus Palmer's Dragonballs (meatballs) turned out to be pitch perfect (after some re-heating), as they had been at the media event.

So the big change from the first order was that this one did arrive. Everything else about delivery was awful. I wonder if Cookin's business model can survive DoorDash? I stopped using them for food delivery before the pandemic because they were so unreliable. It appears nothing has changed. The chefs are doing a great job, but I could not rely on DoorDash to deliver an order. Maybe Uber Eats, if they use actual Uber drivers, would work better as those people have to drive people every day.

Update 2023-08-17 12:58pm: Order is finally delivered (an hour late) by a grumpy sod of an Uber Eats driver who parks at the far end of the street and expects me to walk to him to pick it up (he has to exit by an exit right next to me, so he could just drive up to me. For some reason, that is too much for him). Delivery instructions were to deliver to the door and knock/ring.

Overall, this is not anything like the 'white glove' experience promised. Cookin is not yet ready for primetime.

Update 2023-08-17 12:27pm: I placed an order two days ago for delivery at noon today. At 12:15pm the app. was telling me that it was being prepared. But at 12:08pm a text told me that it had already been delivered (it hadn't). At 12:25pm I got a call saying that Doordash had delivered it to the wrong address (why did they use a driver who can't read addresses)? Another one is supposed to be on its way. TBD.

I just got a media presentation of an app-driven company that showed the most radical change in how we eat other people’s food since the invention of the cloud kitchen in 2015. Cookin is a food delivery app where the provider is not an established restaurant but an individual chef running a nascent business, often out of their home kitchen (subject to city codes). They typically start on Cookin while working full-time at a conventional brick-and-mortar restaurant, specifying an abbreviated menu, their days of work, and maximum quantities. When you run the app, it is not unusual to see things like “Only 4 left” next to their offerings. That reflects the capacity of their fledgling operation. One could call Cookin “the Uber for chefs and diners’.

Cookin was started in Toronto by Michael Baruch and Morley Ivers ten months ago. It took off so fast that they raised $17m in a round led by venture capitalist Relay Ventures, and formed an Advisory Board/angel investors panel including Patrick Kriss, Michelin Star Chef and Owner of Alo Group; Matt Tucker, CEO of Tock; Noah Glass, CEO of Olo; Jodi Kovitz, Founder of Move the Dial; Ben Leventhal, Founder of Eater and Resy; Mark Cohon, Chair of Toronto Global; and Howard Grosfield, President of US Consumer Services at American Express. When I asked Ivers and Baruch, they were taciturn about the valuation of their last round.

Dallas is their first expansion into the United States, and may become their US headquarters. They have brought in experienced executives. The site head honcho relocated here from New York, to drive growth. So far,1500 potential creators have responded to their enquiries, from which only a small sample will be selected. Baruch and Ivers want interesting food by chefs who stamp their identity on what they do. The chefs’ biographies are on the app, right next to their menu.

Take Neydi Hernandez, and her company Neydi’s Waaj Tamales. She comes from the Chiapas tamale trail. Her tamales are absolutely divine, especially the creamy Shrimp with Pumpkin Purée and the Cheese. I am ordering some this week for dinner.

Neydi Hernandez, Neydi's Waaj Tamales
Neydi Hernandez, Neydi's Waaj Tamales

Samarcus Palmer's Dragonballs (meatballs) are the most addicting thing I’ve had since I took up crack. I thought I’d nailed him as a graduate of a mainstream cooking school, but it turns out he is self-taught, beginning as his grandmother’s assistant, working his way into the kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton in Denver. Those Dragonballs are a dinner order for next week.

Samarcus Palmer, Animuchiez
Samarcus Palmer, Animuchiez

Juan Altamirano describes his style as American/International but be aware he makes memorable desserts like Chocolate Ganache Eclairs with Lavender Honey Mousse that will test the warranty on your bathroom scale. That’s going in my weekend order.

Juan Altamirano, Ochenta Dias Chef
Juan Altamirano, Ochenta Dias Chef

All these three chefs had great front-of-house skills. Cheerful, chatty, and informative. I do hope Cookin lets each chef post a short video in the app to solidify the bond with the customer. The Internet has made their business model possible, but it also can be a very impersonal space.

Cookin goes live today. There are about 30 Dallas chefs already in the app at rollout. Expect, that to become hundreds and the catchment area to grow. Austin, Houston and other Texas cities are next on the expansion plan. How they, and their chefs, do depends critically on execution. They have wisely not tried to replicate the difficult business of delivery, relying on established firms. Their chefs will have to be as reliable as established chains, but as custom as their imaginations.

I went to the Cookin media event a skeptic at the thought of “another food delivery app’ (moaning noise). I came away a customer. Watch Cookin.

Founders Michael Baruch and Morley Ivers are experienced entrepreneurs
Founders Michael Baruch and Morley Ivers are experienced entrepreneurs



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