November 12, 2018

UChicago Alum Launches Social Dining App

This week, a UChicago graduate launched the iOS mobile app extension of his startup, Homecooked. Homecooked is a social dining platform started on Facebook through which users organize community meals at the homes of local chefs.

Homecooked CEO Hojung Kim (A.B. ’18), together with Chief Operations Officer Kevin Zhen and Chief Technology Officer Eric Duong—both currently juniors at Yale University—and Creative Director Gabe Oviawe, founded the Homecooked Facebook page in January 2018. Now, the app is establishing another way for people to experience social dining.

The app enables users to sign up to hold or attend dining events in their area, with 6–8 attendees for each event. Participants can be home chefs, who prepare the food and host the events, or guests, who pay a booking fee to attend.

Chefs on Homecooked can be anyone interested in sharing their cooking with the community, since they do not need any culinary credentials. Guests are matched based on likes and passions listed in their profiles on the app. According to Kim, his team has found that the chefs come from a wide range of backgrounds, from stay-at-home mothers to refugee chefs. Guests were found to fall into two main age groups, from 22 to 35 and from 45 to 60, “which aligned with expectations,” said Kim, “as [these are the] people who we expected to consistently eat alone. [Homecooked] would be an alternative to that for them.”

While Homecooked is currently focused in New Haven, Connecticut, Kim said that work has begun to expand the platform to Chicago.

Kim had the idea for Homecooked while in college.

“Something I noticed in college [was that] there was an increasing trend of isolation,” he said. Kim had learned that 47% of all meals at restaurants in the U.S. are eaten alone, and he himself had also found this isolation increasingly frustrating and alienating, he said. He started hosting small groups of friends at his apartment to combat this new norm of isolation with “social dining.”

Over home-cooked foods and in the intimate setting of his dining room, Kim saw guests who “wouldn’t normally meet, suddenly engaged in long conversations.” He was struck by social dining’s unique environment of warmth and connection, which led to the main goal for Homecooked: to “integrate our society, one meal at a time.”

Kim believes other college students would appreciate the Homecooked experience.

“There is something really special about...these small communal meals taking place within an intimate setting where someone invites you into their own home. It’s a warm inviting experience and a perfect way for people to connect with others,” Kim said.