Agnieszka Gorska – founder of Ulala Chef, an Internet platform which help you rent a cook for party in your own home.
What made you open Ulala Chef?
There were a few reasons and situations. Having spent nearly 20 years in large corporations, there came a time when I needed something fresh and new. I felt this something should be connected with gastronomy as it has been my great passion for years. All the more so because I don’t cook myself, yet I love eating out in restaurants and I can appreciate the chef’s craftsmanship. I think that if I were a good cook, I’d have never come up with the idea of Ulala Chef. I thought about all the women like me – who enjoymeeting their friends and having guests in their home, but they do not necessarily feel like spending time in the kitchen during parties. There are so many excellent cooks! Why not invite a chef into your home and let him serve an intimate dinner?! An important part of this idea is the online platform where customers can look through the menu, compare the prices, read customer reviews, and hire a chef to come to their homes and prepare meals for a dinner party. I myself wanted to have access to such a platform as a customer, which is why I created it 🙂
What principles do you follow when selecting chefs?
It’s not so easy to meet our requirements after all. For our customers essential qualities of an ideal chefinclude excellent craft skills, talent, culinary imagination, experience, coming into direct contact with customers, impeccable manners, communication skills, ability to deal with non-standard situations, and being able to improvise. Therefore, test dinners are important for us – they are the last stage of recruitment. Together with our customers we check how a given chef copes with difficult conditions – in the kitchen he doesn’t know, working next to a chef he doesn’t know, and being bombarded with questions from guests who willingly peep into the kitchen. This is a really hard test, which is why a carefully selected group, with checked references, takes part in this stage.
Who was the first customer of Ulala Chef?
We were really lucky. A week after announcing that we had our first chefs that could be hired to cook in private homes, the first customers from among my good friends appeared. I’m very grateful to them because it is the trust of our first customers and friends, as well astheir faith in this concept that motivated us at the beginning of our path. They were very non-standard parties – an all-day party in the holiday home by the lake far away from Warsaw, and an intimate party on the roof of the tenement house in Sopot during the Opener festival. We didn’t have any chefs in Tricity then, so we took one of our chefs who came to Tricity from Wrocław.
Do you operate throughout Poland?
Yes, now we have our chefs in all largest Polish cities. We already cooperate with 70 chefs. Apart from Warsaw, we are in Tricity, Krakow, Wrocław, Poznań, Łódź, and Katowice. As you see, from the very beginning of our business activity location is not a problem for us. Our chefs work in their cities, yet they’re ready to travel to the most distant parts of Poland, to any place where a customer wants to throw up a party or spend a few days with friends outside the city with tasty food.
Do your guests have a big influence on the menu suggested by chefs?
We’re flexible as far as creating menus is concerned, yet our customers trust both our recommendations and our chefs’ suggestions. A selection of the menu matters when it comes to the character of a given party and guests. We ourselves make our customers remember about that. There are also customers who know exactly what food they want. If they don’t see such a menu in the chef’s offer, they ask for changes. But chefs have a lot of freedom in suggesting the form and their own interpretation of a given topic. However, most customers specify just the kind of cuisine, and whether they want meat, fish and seafood in the menu. The choice of the chef determinesthe menu suggestion since we want our cooks to serve “their cuisine”, the one they are best at. And if they breathe authenticity in their craft, there will be customers who will appreciate that.
What was the funniest situation during the UlalaChef dinner?
We don’t take part in our customers’ intimatedinners, and the chefs who cooperate with us are obliged to maintain discretion and respect our guests’ privacy. But I’m sure that there are many funny moments since these parties are organised for fun and pleasure 🙂
Yet, there are funny stories connected with our job that I remember well. For example, one of our chefs came to the customer to serve dinner, and it turned out that he mistook the addresses and dates. Now we’re laughing at it but when the amused customer called me, I didn’t find it particularly funny. I was a bit scared. Because I realised that if one of our chefs was at the wrong address, it meant he wouldn’t be able to come to the right address on time and, far be it from me, he had the wrong menu. Fortunately, all ended well, and we managed to do it on time, but I was scared. Thissituation taught us that we should strengthen our procedures and support for chefs in crafting parties because when the number of dinners held at the same time is growing, this is what will let us ensure high standards of work. We’re all just people and anyone can make such a mistake; what matters is that we organise ourselves together, and learning by our mistakes we develop the best tools that provide support for everybody.
Is there a chef you would really like to cooperate with in the future?
I’d like to cooperate with many chefs, I’m observing a lot of names but all of them have a common denominator – passion for work that makes us want to watch him in the kitchen, authenticity towards what he’s serving, honesty, and willingness to come into directcontact with guests. And professional cooperation – a plighted word is sacred.
Do you find it difficult to find chefs to cooperate with you?
After our first recruitment announcement, we gotnearly one hundred applications within two weeks. So the concept itself attracted, and is still attracting, chefs. Why? Because it is constructed in such a way that it suits both customers and chefs. We’re flexible as far as schedules are concerned, we settle fairly for each project, we respect each other and our work, and we help chefs present themselves in the world and build their image. We give a lot and we get a lot of good energy from chefs. We cooperate with many names, not with all of them on a permanent basis and often. We sometimes enter into cooperation for the needs of a specific project for a particular customer, and we cannot talk about all our projects in public. Although I set up this company over two years ago as a person beyond the gastronomy market, through my daily work I’m building trust of the sector in Ulala Chef, and it results in good relationships with chefs and their openness to cooperation. This is what I am grateful for to the people in this branch. So, if you ask whether it’s hard to find chefs for cooperation, I’ll reply: no. Provided that you take into consideration not only the needs of your company and its customers, but also the needs of chefs, and circumstances in which given chefs are in the particular moment of their career. In my opinion, this is how bringing people together and facilitating cooperation work.
More details: www.ulalachef.com