If you work in the culinary or hospitality industries, you may have wished that there was a social connection site just for you. Thanks to the efforts of Alice Cheng, now there is: in 2012, she launched Culinary Agents, a LinkedIn-like site for networking between culinary professionals.
Cheng, a former IBM executive and forward-thinker, was inspired by the passion and drive of the people she met when she worked in food service and wanted to create a better way for them to connect. “I was very surprised at the lack of online tools to connect talent with each other and with businesses,” she recalled to NBC News. “With my background and experience, I just had to do something.”
Cheng’s project brings together the “career development of LinkedIn” with the “matchmaking of dating sites,” as NBC puts it. Jim Robinson, the founder of RRE Ventures who helped round up seed money for the site, says that he believed there was a need for the project. “there’s a lot going on in this space because of all the mid- to upper-echelon restaurateurs, who fall just below the level of the very famous. It’s a growing group, and they still use Craigslist,” he says.
Culinary Agents recently launched the company in Europe, Cheng is busier than ever. She reports being on call 24/7, and doing 48-hour round trips to meet with clients. Because of the popularity of food blogs and things like the Food Network and Cooking Channel, there is a growing need for a culinary connection site and job board, especially as many new culinary-school grads emerge and look for jobs.
Currently there are about 10,000 users on the site, from people looking for work to people offering work. The site is free for businesses but charges a fee for job postings, and in the next year Culinary Agents may offer a program that offers analytics for the job listings.