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How amateur cooks and people with friends can make extra cash

Sliced skirt steak with a bowl of chimichurri sauce
People who like to cook can sell homemade food through websites such as DishDivvy.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

If you’re a good cook or just like good food, a site for home chefs is offering to help you make some extra money.

Glendale-based DishDivvy invites California cooks to sell meals for pickup and has just launched an affiliate program that pays cooks and clients for referrals. The site is capitalizing on trends that give ordinary people a chance to monetize their cooking skills or their friendships.

For cooks

In addition to DishDivvy, four other sites — Shef, CozyMeal, ChefsFeed and EatWith — enable professional and amateur cooks to market home-cooked meals to customers in the United States.

By and large, the chefs determine the menus, the schedule and the prices of their offerings. The sites take a commission from either the cook or the client, and cover marketing and payment processing.

The pandemic has given these operations a shot in the arm. As restaurants shut to diners around the country — but largely kept their kitchens open — people turned to local takeout and delivery services. That fueled rapid growth in revenue and in interest from chefs. DishDivvy experienced a fourfold boost in revenue and an eightfold increase in chefs offering meals over the last year, Chief Executive Ani Torosyan says.

Village Green Foods in Irvine helps home cooks pursue their culinary dreams.

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For influencers

Realizing that you’re more likely to put faith in word-of-mouth recommendations from people you trust, advertisers are increasingly turning to influencers to market their products.

Who are influencers? At one time, they were mainly actors, reality TV stars and athletes. As advertising dollars poured into this market, influencers were redefined more broadly. Now, they’re often people who have sway over a group because of their community connections or passions. They can be scientists, stay-at-home moms, schoolchildren, bloggers, members of a PTA or charity. In other words, they can be just about anyone who has a social media presence.

“You don’t need to have a lot of followers, you just need to be authentic and have an engaged audience,” says Eric Dahan, CEO of Open Influence, an influencer marketing agency.

Open Influence finds lucrative advertising deals for influencers who have thousands of followers on social media platforms. Sites such as Heartbeat and Koji can help “micro-influencers,” who have as few as 500 followers, secure small-dollar advertising deals in their local markets.

There’s a plethora of side jobs for food lovers, including food photography and reviews, offering cooking classes, and working at restaurants, bars and — eventually — events.

DishDivvy program

Combining local influencers and local food seemed like a natural fit for DishDivvy, Torosyan says. After all, the focus of the site is to enable cooks to sell meals to people who live within a few miles of them.

When cooks register on the site, they provide their street address and their prospective menus. Once they’re accepted through the onboarding process, which requires a license and a kitchen inspection, they can start offering meals. Potential customers see locally offered menus and their prices. When a customer clicks on an individual meal, they also get a map showing how far they’d have to drive to pick it up.

With this hyperlocal focus, the best spokespeople for the site are friends and neighbors who are willing to tout their favorite meals on social media platforms such as Facebook and Nextdoor, Torosyan says.

Both cooks and clients can participate in the referral program. It’s based on a point system that values each referral purchase at roughly $3. Chefs also earn points for getting five-star reviews and for uploading new menu items.

“We were paying Facebook for referrals,” Torosyan explains. “Why not reward our cooks and our clients instead?”

Your income from home cooking and referrals might not replace a full-time salary, but the money can add up. Torosyan says DishDivvy affiliates typically earn $100 to $250 per month, while home cooks can earn $2,000 to $3,000.

Dawn Perry brings simplicity and flavor to her new recipes for our weeknight meal series.

Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy.


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