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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cucumbertown: A recipe to bring chefs and foodies together

We are all familiar with companies founded in garages and wooden sheds. But here is one where the founders were sitting in their respective drawing rooms in three corners of the world – two in Bangalore, one in the US, and the other in Switzerland – and none of them had met the others.

There are a number of blogs on restaurants, dining and recipes. But, Cherian Thomas, a Bangalore-based foodie, realised that these blogs are restricted only to the tech-savvy community, since opening a blog and maintaining it requires some amount of knowledge in website management. It struck him that there isn’t a Facebook for cooks, like there is one for photographers or designers and Cucumbertown, a social network for chefs and foodies, was born.

“I used to cook with my brother from the time I was in 7th standard. Later, I realised that many housewives, mothers and grandmoms, besides many men who cook as a hobby, don’t have an online presence, because they are neither comfortable with writing a blog nor have adequate motivation to write long articles on food,” says Thomas, who is an engineer by profession. “So I thought I would devise a mechanism that will make it easy for everyone who is interested in cooking and recipes to have an online identity -- a community where foodies can easily exchange tips on cooking: that’s the premise of Cucumbertown.”

The site is simple to use. You can either log in with your Facebook username and password or create a new account. “Once you are onboard, you can search by ingredient, cuisine or cooking time, upload photos and write recipes, and share all that you cook,” says Thomas.

“I remember one of my friends saying that his grandmother knows a few good Konkani recipes, and he feared that those dishes might become extinct,” Thomas recalls. “Cucumbertown will not let them become extinct. On our site, you mingle with not only chefs and food bloggers, but also with a huge number of home cooks who might end up sharing a few family secrets as well. This is also a place where you can save your recipes for generations to come.”

Thomas, who is the CEO, had worked in Zynga and Support.com. The other three co-founders are CTO Arun Prabhakar who previously worked with Taggles and TutorVista; Chris Luscher, partner at InformationArchitects, a premier design firm in Zurich; and Dan Hauk, theme designer of Tumblr and co-founder of BrewTracker.

Thomas explains the importance of having world-class design experts as cofounders of the Cucumbertown: “For a consumer product, design is extremely important, as important as the website content, for users to keep coming back to the site. Secondly, we decided to work with professionals in America and Europe because we wanted to create a global product.”

Thomas says that Cucumbertown has users from 60 countries, the largest audience, after the US, is from Australia and the UAE. “Thanks to our site, we know of some interesting American-Arabic fusion recipes, created by Americans living in the Gulf. Sanaa A’esha, a user, says, “I spend half my days lookng for recipes, interesting food blogs and sharing my own personal creations. I would have thought of developing this site, if this hadn't come up.”

Cucumbertown raised a $300,000 seed round last year. The first round of investors included Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Paul Singh of 500 Startups, FarmVille co-creator Sizhao Zao Yang, founder of MightyText Maneesh Arora, early Google product guy Richard Chen and Sonique Player co-creator Tabreez Varjee.

(This article appeared in the Brainwave column of The Times of India, Bangalore, yesterday.)

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