Why get delivery from some faceless eatery when you can order from a vegan ginger with a Beatles tattoo? You can now do just that with Homemade, an app that launches tonight in Bushwick and will soon be expanding to Bed-Stuy, Fort Greene, East Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
You might call this the AirBNB of food delivery, since it allows home cooks to prepare meals whenever they want and charge whatever for them. Do you like the look of those flaxseed cookies made by Monica, a Peruvian who uses her grandma’s recipes? Or that chicken curry made by Anisha, who first learned to cook at her aunt’s restaurant in India? Just hit “request a meal” and pick one of the available times. Some home cooks will deliver the meal to you personally, others use a courier, or you can just walk over to their place and pick it up.
The app’s co-creators, Nick Devane and Mike Dee, were previously the owners of Zulu’s, a Lower East Side café. Devane says he came up with the idea for Homemade a few years ago, when he was wondering how to share the goodness of his grandma’s yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Dee taught himself code and now the two have launched something along the lines of the “digital bakesale” that Devane envisioned – a snazzy app that aims to foster “community through food.”
Devane said he wants to “reintroduce the neighborhood” to its residents. The idea is that after you’ve picked up a meal from one of Homemade’s chefs, you’ll bump into them on the streets and maybe strike up a conversation. The app launched in Bushwick because it’s already “a really dynamic, close-knit neighborhood” (not to mention a “young and tech-savvy” one) where “even with Roberta’s and the other restaurants there, there aren’t a huge amount of food options,” Devane said.
Sounds great, but is this even legal? Devane acknowledged that the app exists in a bit of a grey area. Which is why meal prices, which are set by the chef (Alex “Dancing Ginger” Beaty’s “deconstructed falafel salad” is $10, Katie Scott’s mac and cheese is $11), are considered “donations.”
“We’re utilizing donation-based compensation as a loophole,” Devane said of health department laws. “We do intend to change regulation around this. We’re working with groups in Albany and at the city level to begin conversations around what that would look like.”
Devane noted that “food bootleggers” and underground restaurants already exist. “If this is already happening, how can we make it better?”
The company vets its chefs, who apply online, via test meals and initial kitchen inspections. Once on board, they’re given a list of best practices that is based on the health department’s food prep guidelines. But Devane says that while a “strong percentage” of the 60 or so chefs who are currently on board have food handling licenses (some of them are also caterers), the company doesn’t require them.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the service to use if you forgot to eat lunch and need some slop in your belly ASAP or you’ll shiv your boss. Some chefs won’t get out of bed unless a certain number of minimum orders are placed.