Professional chef and entrepreneur Chloe St-Cyr wants to bring the culinary arts to the masses.
In December 2015, she launched MiumMium (French Canadian for yum!), an online marketplace that matches personal chefs with in-home diners around the globe. Along with giving consumers a new way to experience fine dining in the comfort of their homes, St-Cyr hopes to help chefs increase their income and reduce their financial dependence on restaurant work.
Here, she shares how she launched and grew MiumMium and her hope to empower chefs.
What prompted you to start MiumMium?
My dad always told me to stay informed, to look around, and to try to understand the trends ahead of us. In 2014, I became interested in the “sharing economy.” I studied companies like Uber and Airbnb and realized what they’re really doing is monetizing an unused asset. I looked at my world and recognized that the only unused asset I had was time. I thought, ‘There are millions of chefs around the world, why not create a platform where they can market their skills and earn some extra cash?’
How do chefs benefit from this type of service?
Many of our chefs have increased their income by 50 percent just by having fun preparing a feast and making new friends during three or four hours. It’s a lucrative activity that they can practice when they have free time.
How has the platform been received by chefs?
The reception from chefs has exceeded our greatest expectations. We registered more than 11,000 chefs in less than six months. We launched in Canada and now operate in nine countries, including the United States, France, England, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland, and have chefs located all around the world. Some of our chefs have even stopped their restaurant work to concentrate solely on MiumMium.
You’ve spoken out about gender equality in foodservice. How does that play into your mission?
I have one goal—to present every chef with the opportunity to earn a good living. I have experienced firsthand the discrimination faced by women in the kitchen. However, I must also admit that I have enjoyed the benefits provided by the color of my skin. Both situations are unacceptable—whatever their gender, religion, sexual orientation, or nationality, chefs should only be judged on the quality of the experience they provide to their customers.
My dream is to set a marketplace where anyone with cooking skills can promote their services, and by doing so, increase their standard of living. A marketplace like MiumMium empowers all chefs equally. The chefs decide how much they want to get paid, when they would like to work, and what they wish to cook for the clients. The market does the rest. Our structure is fully open.
Are all chefs paid equally?
The chefs are all paid as they wish, not necessarily equally. Equally would mean they all receive the same amount for their work, which is not the case. Our chefs are free to advertise the menu of their choice at the price they want. [Prices generally fall between $20 and $100.] If they create a three-course meal for $50 per plate, we will promote their work on the site for 10 percent more, or $55 per plate; $5 per plate is kept by MiumMium at booking and the remaining $50 per plate is paid directly to the chef by the client. Therefore, the chef gets the amount he asked for. It is a free market, and every chef decides the value of his work. MiumMium charges no fees to the chefs. The price of the meal, its description, and the quality of the pictures will dictate the chef’s success at first, then the client reviews will start rolling in and become the main driver of business.
What is the average cost of a MiumMium meal per person?
During our first year of operation, the average cost of a MiumMium meal was exactly $47.58 per person. This price includes the food, the in-house cooking by the chef, the transportation, taxes, and everything else. Only the tip, which is always discretionary, is not included in the price.
Do MiumMium chefs leverage any economies of scale in their meal prep, or are they shopping at retail for meals?
Most of them shop at retail stores. Our chefs are spread around the world and offer a wide range of dishes, so it would be difficult to find sources that could meet all their needs.
What type of growth rate have you seen?
When we launched in late December 2015, we had three bookings for the month. I felt discouraged. In January, we had 10; then things got better. For the first year, our goal was to avoid all debt and become profitable as soon as possible. We have achieved what a minuscule number of startups have done—breaking even without any external capital within 10 months. We just finalized a distribution agreement with homeaway.com, and are well positioned to experience exponential growth going forward. We are now exploring opportunities to raise capital that will be used to increase our brand awareness.
What are your views as a chef on ingredient and food trends? What do you see making the biggest impact right now?
Eating local ingredients is hopefully here to stay. As I travel the world, I observe chefs going back to their roots and adapting yesterday’s flavors to today’s cuisine.
What I am most fascinated by presently is a new approach to designing recipes. New startups, such as foodpairing.com from Belgium, are using science to analyze and determine on a molecular level the degree and compatibility between different ingredients. Their research is providing chefs around the world with pairings we had never imagined before. I am also involved with a Canadian startup called alfredsommelier.com, which is working on a similar approach to wine pairing. Alfred has developed an algorithm that can predict the optimal degustation period for each vintage. The possibilities are endless when you marry science with food.
Do you see your company disrupting the status quo in the foodservice industry or simply adding to it?
With the proper capital, MiumMium could sign up 100,000 chefs and become a major disruptor in this ever-changing economy. We believe that more and more people will look at entertaining in their home, and MiumMium is perfectly positioned to profit from that trend.
You’ve worked in several hotels, most recently the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach & Hilton Dubai The Walk. In five-star hotels, how much does the cost of ingredients affect menu decisions?
The cost of ingredients will play more or less of a role depending on the type of institutions. For a large five-star hotel with volume and an à la carte menu, food costs may not be the main driver in setting up menus. On the other end, for an all-inclusive hotel, it plays an important role.
“Our chefs advertise the menu of their choice at the price they want. If they create a three-course meal for $50 per plate, we will promote their work on the site for 10 percent more, or $55 per plate; $5 per plate is kept by MiumMium at booking and the remaining $50 per plate is paid directly to the chef by the client. Therefore, the chef gets the amount he asked for.”
Emily Crowe is a regular contributor to Specialty Food Magazine and Specialty Food News.