Chef’s Roll is changing the way chefs market themselves in the highly competitive culinary world. The one-year-old, San Diego-based startup created an online platform for chefs to present themselves to the world and advance their careers. Co-founder and president Frans van der Lee explains how building web sites for chefs turned into an idea for a job board with media-rich profiles of thousands of chefs. The name comes from the knife bag that chefs carry with them from job to job, as the company hopes they will do with their online profile.
Why did you start Chef’s Roll?
We started Chef’s Roll because chefs were coming to our web development firm wanting help promoting and marketing themselves. We quickly learned that chefs do not have the time or budget to go through a full-blown web design and development process. My co-founder and I are both passionate about food and know how hard culinary professionals work. In order to help them achieve their goals, we came up with Chefsroll.com — a sort of “LinkedIn” for chefs.
What do most chefs need to know about marketing themselves?
While there has been this celebritization of chefs, thanks to the popularity of cooking shows, most chefs toil away in relative obscurity. Even if a chef is a partner in a restaurant, there is typically at most a paragraph dedicated to them on the restaurant’s website, and you can forget about any mention of the other chefs in the kitchen that are key in making it all happen. If a chef wants to find new opportunities — and I’m not just talking about a new position, but being invited to participate in culinary events, competitions, get on TV (if that is their thing), any chance of elevating their career – they need to market and promote themselves. It is rare that opportunity will just knock on their kitchen door, but it will be easier to get discovered if they have an online presence and are part of a wider network. We have seen many success stories so far thanks to Chef’s Roll.
Chefs also need to look at themselves as a brand and control the conversation around their work. With armchair food critics wielding the power of Yelp and traditional newsprint hiring dubiously qualified critics, there has never been a more important time to focus on one’s online professional identity. Our media-rich profiles allow our chefs to curate their online professional identity and the image they portray. The search engine rankings for our chefs have been stellar, often coming up above Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
How many chefs have signed on and how many countries are represented?
We have about 5,000 chefs representing over 100 countries. Our biggest challenge on-boarding more chefs is the time factor. Chefs can work up to 14-hour days, six days a week sometimes, so marketing themselves isn’t always first on their list when they get a moment. We have several big strategic partnerships just coming to fruition that should up our numbers and help us scale. We are also going to start publicizing some of the success stories to show non-members the opportunities they are missing.
How do you compare with LinkedIn?
There is a value in being part of a vertical network that just focuses on your industry and that is why culinary professionals are embracing Chef’s Roll versus LinkedIn. Our profiles are media-rich and chef-focused, so can act as a full website versus just another boring profile on LinkedIn. We don’t currently have all the networking bells and whistles of LinkedIn, but that is on the horizon.
What’s next for Chef’s Roll?
We were asked by the World Food Championships to be one of their partners for their big annual cooking competition in November and are proud to say we have 16 of our members out of a field of 500 competing for $300,000 in prize money. The championships will air on A&E’s FYI network.
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