A year ago, he was still a full-time employee at Amazon. Since then he has embarked on an entrepreneurial adventure, followed the Founder Institute program, even became its director for the second season, and is now launching a new concept of real-time cooking classes in a few days. Here is our interview with Matteo Ressa, founder of ChefPassport.
by: Silicon Luxembourg
photo: Serge Deuces
featured: Gaurav Gandhi and Matteo Ressa
Listen to article (Part I)
Tell us about your startup.
We believe food has the power to connect people and cultures. Our dream is to empower people through food experiences. We are on a mission to connect cooking lovers with local home cooks and chefs from around the world to make international food more accessible. ChefPassport brings the flavours of the world on your table, every day
How did you come up with the idea?
Two years ago, I visited Bangkok and had the privilege to dine at Jay Fai restaurant. The restaurant is run by a 70 year old lady who has been cooking traditional Thai dishes since she was a child. She is the first street-food Thai cook awarded with a Michelin Star. It was an unforgettable experience. It was not just about the food. That night I learned the origin of Pad Thai and the role it has had in Thai identity back in the day when Chinese cuisine played a primary influence on Thai food culture.
Jay Fai reminded me of my granny and the endless Sundays I spent during my childhood in Italy watching her prepare homemade pasta, jam cakes, and other unbelievably delicious meals. While cooking, she never failed to tell me a story about where she learned that dish and how she selected certain ingredients. I started connecting the dots. How many other home cooks are out there? I am sure there is a treasure trove of cooking knowledge in the world-recipes passed over from parents to children, or maybe never passed over and lost. These recipes represent something more than a process of just assembling ingredients. They represent an emotional moment in an individual’s life. I started thinking “Are not we missing an opportunity to do good in connecting people thought this immense treasure trove of knowledge and information?”
As humans, we tend to naturally build connections and satisfy our innate curiosity. How easy is that today in the international cooking space? I felt privileged to be in Bangkok that night, but many others might not have the possibility of travelling around the world and would be missing out on this opportunity. I decided I wanted to do something to fix this and give every cooking lover the opportunity of building meaningful relationships with likeminded people around the world via food experiences. This is why I decided to start ChefPassport.
“We are working on classes and meetups with participants connected to chefs in real kitchens remotely. This is ideal for corporate team building events.”
What is your product/service?
ChefPassport is a digital application that connects cooking lovers with local cooks from all over the world. It provides live streaming, interactive cooking classes and cooking lessons. So far, we’ve on boarded 8 cooks from 7 different countries.
Customers who visit ChefPassport and can book a virtual class with a chef and choose the dish they want to prepare. They receive a detailed recipe, the list of ingredients and tools, and recommendations on where to purchase them. On the agreed day, the chef will coach, guide, interact with the customers and take them through how to prepare the dish in the live streaming session.
What is your business model?
So far, we’ve charged a participation fees for each class but are planning on introducing a subscription-based model and building a marketing affiliation network that promotes the brands of the ingredients and kitchen tools used by the chefs in the classes.
We now also offer private lessons and are planning to introduce more such services. We are working on classes and meetups with participants connected to chefs in real kitchens remotely. This is ideal for corporate team building events.
“We plan to secure 200 sales by the end of Q2 2020, which we believe will give us the confidence to have validated the market.”
Who are your clients?
Our clients include anyone passionate about cooking. There are no restrictions on age, sex, or origin. We run classes with families and kids, as well as senior couples curious to live a virtual travel experience, men willing to surprise their spouses for a specific anniversary or women organizing a girl’s night with their girlfriends. Every cooking lover is welcome to ChefPassport.
We are about to launch the first pilot of a “cooking meetup”. We’ll be bringing together 10-12 people on the 30th of November in Luxembourg city to connect them remotely with Soe Cavalca, a native Thai chef, in a 4-hours long experience which will end up with a social dinner among all the participants. This is the very first of many events we will be organizing, so stay tuned to our Event Page on ChefPassport, Facebook and Eventbrite.
In 2020, we will focus on adding selection, in terms of chefs, countries and dishes. We will also be improving the current customer experience of the website (e.g. introducing chef ratings, translations services for non-English speakers, and full self-service class booking). We plan to secure 200 sales by the end of Q2 2020, which we believe will give us the confidence to have validated the market and will put us in a position to start looking for business angels to fund our seed rounds. This will be used to hire and grow the team, improve the web product, develop a mobile app and increase our marketing presence.
“I did not want to wake up in 10 years’ time and regret I never gave it a try. One of my favorite quotes is “The right moment is always yesterday”.”
Listen to article (Part II)
What has the Founder Institute program brought you?
One year ago I still was a full-time employee at Amazon. I had this idea in my mind but always had questions. I had a lot of questions and no one who could help me answer them. I needed a network of experts, someone who had gone through a similar journey and someone who could help me not make the same mistakes again.
If I have to pick one single benefit, it is definitely the network of mentors. You cannot build businesses alone. You need to surround yourself with great people to hold yourself accountable and I believe Founder Institute gave me this support. Today when I wake up, I still have plenty of questions, but at least I have someone in the huge global network of the Founder Institute (more than 11K mentors worldwide) who can help me, provide feedback, support and guidance (see our article “Silicon-Valley based Founder Institute launches newest chapter in Luxembourg“). The structure of the program, its intensity and the way it pushes you to meet deadlines in a short timeframe are definitely other benefits I got from the program.
After my graduation as a founder, I am honored to have been proposed to lead the Founder Institute Luxembourg and organize its second edition. I’ve taken this up and am now running it as a side project to ChefPassport. The next edition will begin on December 4th and I am looking forward to opening up opportunities for others as Founder Institute has done for me.
You have left a full-time job at a giant e-commerce company to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure? Why did you take the plunge?
I did not want to wake up in 10 years’ time and regret I never gave it a try. One of my favorite quotes is “The right moment is always yesterday”. I already had a couple of startup experiences before joining Amazon which were more a hobby and failed for several reasons. Amazon gave me the final push. Over the almost 5 years spent in the company building global products, I had the opportunity of improving my business, technical and leadership skills to a point where I felt confident to make this leap of faith, quit my job and start my own venture. I will always be extremely grateful to Amazon because they gave me the knowledge and help me build skills that I did not even know I had before joining the company.
With ChefPassport, we are just starting out and know it will be a long winding road, but we are determined to achieve our vision. We place utmost focus on people and I am convinced that a team of great people like the one we are building will be the key to making ChefPassport the pioneer and worldwide leader of digital cooking experiences.