ChefPassport - The Recipe to Build Connections
Interview with Matteo Ressa Founder and CEO of ChefPassport by the Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg
Translated from French
Author Marie-Hélène Trouillez
Photos Matthieu Freund-Priacel/ Primatt Photography
Original Article (in French)
Inspired by his travels around the world and by the constantly renewed discovery of a palette of culinary flavors, Matteo Ressa founded ChefPassport in 2019, with the idea of bringing participants together around gastronomy, culture and traditions. . A sign of the times, the kitchen remains a bulwark against the disintegration of ties, a space of conviviality. Nothing like a good recipe developed together online with one of the 40 chefs that federates ChefPassport, to reconnect bodies and hearts or revitalize teams.
After an experience as a Product Manager within large corporations, what made you want to leave everything to create ChefPassport?
I specialize in website and application development. During my career as a computer scientist, I worked for 15 years in particular at Vodafone and Amazon. I also like traveling and cooking, and I wanted to create a project that could combine these three passions. I wanted to bring my dream to life so as not to regret later not having realized it. In 2018, I had the pleasure of dining at Jay Fai restaurant in Bangkok. Cook Jay Fai has been crowned with the “Icon Award” of the 50 best restaurants in Asia and in 2017, she received her first Michelin star. It was the first time that the prestigious red guide honored a street canteen. That evening, I learned about the origin of Pad Thai and the role it played in Thai identity when Chinese cuisine was a major influence in Thai gastronomy. I felt privileged to be in Bangkok and to have this unforgettable experience. But I also thought that many others did not have the opportunity to travel around the world and experience such a culinary adventure. The idea of creating ChefPassport was born from this experience. I left Amazon in March 2019 to devote myself fully to ChefPassport. I spent the next eight months building partnerships, recruiting talent and optimizing the website. Gaurav Gandhi, our COO (Chief Operating Officer) and Danielle Diamond (Head of Marketing and Communication) developed the concept of ChefPassport with me, and in February 2020, we launched the activity. ChefPassport offers workshops and meetings between participants connected remotely and chefs in their kitchen. Gastronomy has this singular power to bring people together around the original, universal pleasure of tableware. It’s ideal for corporate team building events!
Has the health crisis had an impact on your business?
Contrary to what one might think, ChefPassport was born before the Covid-19 crisis. The crisis has of course worked in our favour, especially with the increase in digital events. Two additional activities offered by ChefPassport were born out of the health crisis: online cooking classes to celebrate an event and videoconference cooking sessions for companies. With the development of telework, it is not easy for companies to maintain team spirit and a certain cohesion between employees. In this context, ChefPassport provides a real solution to the employee’s feeling of isolation. Videoconference cooking classes are on the rise with companies that represent 90% of all our customers. Discussion and sharing are at the heart of the process. Distracting the employee is a primary objective. A second, a component of remote team building, combines the notions of fun and friendly activities. Our principle is to arouse curiosity and promote interactivity.
What services does ChefPassport offer?
Several options are available to the public. We have the “TeamCook” formula for a small group of 20 people at nearly 40 euros per person. This formula is ideal for a team leader who wishes to reward his staff with a fun event. Then, we have the “Cookinar” formula which is suitable for a medium-sized group, between 20 and 100 people, for around 20 euros per head. This format is aimed at Human Resources managers, Event managers or even Chief Happiness Officers. The chef leads the event led by a professional. Finally, the “CookCast” is designed for a larger audience of more than 100 participants. The price for a participation costs almost 10 euros per person. As part of a “Cookcast”, an interactive culinary session, led by a professional, can be included within a larger event. Over the past two years, ChefPassport has organized no less than 120 events for a total of more than 3,000 participants.
How did you promote your business?
ChefPassport is a digital app that connects cooking enthusiasts with chefs around the world. In February 2020, we launched an extensive promotional campaign on Indeed and LinkedIn to generate interest from chefs. This campaign worked well and around forty chefs joined ChefPassport. Our concept offers them great visibility around the world. We have observed that participants prefer to be accompanied by real professional chefs. Of the 40 chefs who have chosen to participate in the adventure, several have been trained by Danielle Diamond, our expert in event marketing and communication. Talking online and stimulating participants can be learned ! We have also developed several merchandising products, such as aprons, sets of kitchen knives and ChefPassport stamped cutting boards.
Have you entered into partnerships with other service providers in Luxembourg and around the world, and within the framework of World Expo 2020 in Dubai?
In 2021, we entered into a partnership with HelloFresh in the United States, to deliver boxes containing useful ingredients for cooking sessions to homes. We have also entered into a partnership with Crowd Cow, an American company that delivers meat for the organization of culinary sessions such as a large barbecue, for example. In Europe, Australia and New Zealand, we are about to conclude other partnerships, in particular with The Spice Collection, a startup we met in Dubai as part of one of the economic missions organized by the Chamber of Commerce. We are also in talks with the Panelux and Luxlait companies we met in Dubai on the Luxembourg Pavilion.
What is your business model?
I financed the launch of the company with my savings. In 2020, the launch year of ChefPassport, I paid no salary. From 2021, we managed to raise an initial amount of 60,000 euros with the help of the Business Angels Association in Luxembourg (LBAN). We have planned a second fundraiser for an amount of 400,000 euros and we are currently looking for investors. So far, we charge a participation fee for each course, but we plan to introduce a subscription model and set up an affiliate network to promote the brands of ingredients and cookware used by chefs during cooking classes. The “Virtual Event Manager” takes care of the schedules and registrations and the “Virtual Event Producer” leads the sessions as master of ceremonies, to ensure the smooth running of the event. After the event, a brief survey is conducted and participants rate the session. A debriefing then takes place between the organizers. Today, 40 chefs have joined ChefPassport. We offer international cuisine from around twenty countries and we have prepared around 150 dishes.
Have you recently developed new products and services?
An interactive calendar has been put online. It is now possible to book your culinary session online and choose the type of cuisine. We are also able to respond to specific requests regarding the course of the session and the choice of menu. The Top Chef Instructor Academy has just been created. Currently, a member of our team is leading the online training. In a few days, these trainings will be recorded and offered in self-service on our site. We have created several categories of Top Chefs and we train these chefs to be able to speak in front of cameras! If they graduate, they will be certified Top Chefs and join our academy.
Do you have any plans for the future of your company?
We plan to offer private sessions and other formats such as the “VirtualDine Time” which aims to offer a 90-minute relaxing moment during which participants cook according to their abilities and share a simple and convivial meal. . We will also introduce educational courses, on the prevention of food waste or zero waste, in partnership with experts who can intervene during the lunch break.
Where do you see yourself in three years?
During Expo 2020 in Dubai, I took part in a conference organized by the Chamber of Commerce, on the subject of the “metaverse” on the subject of food. It is a digital universe that offers a new form of exchange between consumers and food professionals. I want to be among the pioneers of the metaverse and invite our chefs to enter this digital universe (see the partnership announcement between ChefPassport and Edverse). ChefPassport will be able to mark a chef’s signature dishes as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). These tokens can be used in exchange for goods, services or access. It will, for example, be possible to buy specific products, to have access to a club or to the recipes of the chefs who have agreed to appear in this parallel world. Our leaders need to familiarize themselves with NFTs and the growing cryptocurrency community. Through NFTs, our mission will be to create a community of loyal members to whom we can provide special and unforgettable experiences.
Want to have a look at the experience menus?