Featured Startup Pitch: Beyond LinkedIn: Chef’s Roll wants to reinvent career networking for chefs

By Editor June 26, 2014

Frans van der Lee, Chef'sRollBy Frans van der Lee, Chef’s Roll co-founder and president/COO

Elevator Pitch: Chef’s Roll is an online platform for professional chefs to tell their entire culinary story through media rich profiles and connect with opportunities around the world. We have been called the ‘LinkedIn for chefs’ and a ‘cook’s best friend.’

Product/Service Description

‘Presentation is everything’ is just as true for a chef’s online professional identity as it is at the table. At Chef’s Roll, chefs can showcase their talent, career achievements, and work experience in a well-designed and easily-expandable profile. We have a job board and specialized tools to make finding culinary talent simple. In fact, casting producers from the Food Network and Bravo TV have called our site “gold to casting producers.” Our chef profiles and chef-focused community span beyond what LinkedIn or Facebook offer in terms of promoting oneself, and our job board is quickly becoming a key resource for finding the right culinary talent. In fact, top restaurant groups are already using it, as well as placement agencies with international job postings.


Founders’ Story

My co-founder and I had a web development company together, and his background in hospitality started generating a lot of leads from chefs that wanted to market and promote themselves.

We found that chefs didn’t quite have the budget for a custom website or the time to go through a whole design process. As Chef’s Roll began to take shape, we couldn’t believe a company had not targeted this social vertical—what we like to call ‘the most delicious vertical.’ We knew the hospitality industry had a large amount of turnover, and there was a hunger for being able to find culinary talent from recruiters, casting producers, and restaurateurs.

We frequently get asked if we are chefs. I am the technical co-founder and have won a neighborhood BBQ competition, but my other half, Thomas Keslinke, has consulted on restaurant openings, directed a multi-million dollar operation for Deloitte & Touche, and owned a high-end catering company.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Early on, we tapped a well-connected and respected chef to not only advise us on the mind of a chef, but to help spread the word about Chef’s Roll. Not wanting to only be local, we leveraged LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to build our worldwide brand recognition, and now have a following of culinary professionals of over 40,000 and growing by the hour.

We are forming strategic partnerships to help us build a large, engaged and passionate community. We get requests to partner on culinary events weekly, which helps get our name out, and have personally attended events from coast-to-coast, as well as in the Caribbean.

Market Opportunity

There are ten million-plus professional chefs worldwide and 90,000 culinary school graduates per year in the U.S. alone, with over two million restaurants in the world (not including fast food) and 140,000 chef job openings in the U.S.

There are a few hospitality-centric networks in existence, but none focused exclusively on chefs, who tend to stick together. For us, it’s all about the chef, and that commitment and passion rings true to our customers and has allowed us to develop a loyal following.

As we continue to capture the attention of chefs, restaurateurs, and the decision-makers in the multi-billion dollar Food and Beverage industry, we look to become the trusted go-between for companies looking to sell products and gain access to chefs. We already see it happening as casting producers request introductions to our chefs, knife companies send samples with our logo on the blades and the media asks us to provide chefs for TV and print opportunities.

Business Model

Chef’s Roll offers a free profile with a subscription-based upgrade where chefs may highlight photos of their food, videos, press, awards and more. We charge for posting on our job board and will roll out the advertising and ecommerce platforms as we scale.

Current Needs

Seeking $1.5 million to build our team and achieve rapid worldwide growth.

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Chef's Roll logoHeadquarters: San Diego, California

Founders: Frans van der Lee, Thomas Keslinke

Investors: Bootstrapped

Year Founded: 2013

AngelList: angel.co/chef-s-roll-inc

Twitter: @chefsroll

Facebook: facebook.com/ChefsRoll

CrunchBase: crunchbase.com/organization/chefs-roll-inc

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/2944237