Eat Like the Pros
The Webby Award–winning app just might change how—and where—you eat.
Photography by James Carrière
Chefs Feed, the sizzling smartphone app, is making its Wine Country debut in June at the winery collective and gallery Ma(i)sonry. Even in a region rich with mind-blowing food and wine pairings, this will be a game changer.
By forging partnerships with venerable institutions like Ma(i)sonry as well as Charles Krug, Napa’s oldest winery, Chefs Feed’s young founders, brothers Steve and Jared Rivera, have quickly gained currency in a sophisticated market. Up until two years ago, the Riveras ran a highly successful restaurant PR firm, building an industry network and getting an insider’s look at what matters to chefs and the public.
Recommendations for innovative and ingredient-driven cuisine is what this app—downloaded one million times so far—is designed to capture and promote. Chefs upload recommendations for great restaurant dishes and, as on Twitter, users follow chefs of their choosing. The ultimate goal is to have Chefs Feed suggest dishes for you in the same way Netflix and Pandora suggest movies and songs.
Not surprisingly, Jared calls the app—which earned a Webby Award last year—a “dish guide,” rather than a restaurant guide, such as Zagat. One might say Chefs Feed is a place where chefs can dish on a dish. Download it, and you can discover that Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood is a big fan of shui mai at Koi Palace. (“I could eat 200.”) And that chef Hiro Sone of Terra loves the blue cheese burger at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena. (“Get mucho napkins ready.”)
It’s a model with limitless potential, says Steve. With a similar app, musicians could riff on their favorite songs; actors on their favorite movies; and, more to the point, sommeliers on their favorite wines.
Or, as Jared reiterates time and again, it’s about “giving a bullhorn” to the chefs. Not to blow their own horns, but to give a shout out to their mates’ plates.
Wine Country is just one of the latest of two dozen Chefs Feed playgrounds in the United States and Canada (nearly all in major metropolitan cities), but the Rivera brothers were eyeing the region all along.
“It will be refreshing,” says Jared, who has been “running like a madman” between the two countries, he says, lining up chefs and launching the app in new cities. And with Jared’s having just moved to Mill Valley, and Steve to Corte Madera, Wine Country is now in their backyards.
“We keep leapfrogging each other to get to Napa Valley,” says Steve, only half joking. In many ways, they’re already there: with the new app, of course, and with Rivera Vineyards, their dad’s nonprofit winery. (Steve Rivera Sr. also owns Napa Sonoma.)
With Chefs Feed now well established, the Riveras are looking to take their vision to the next level. Part of their relationship with Charles Krug is the development of a Chefs Feed–like Food Network, using YouTube videos to explore the cred, quirks, and cravings of celebrity chefs.
“This gives us personality,” says Jared. “It’s hard to have personality on an iPhone.” (Or for that matter, on an Android phone, for which the app launched in March.)
Jared has also pitched a “flight on your flight” concept to Virgin America, in which someone like Peter Mondavi Jr. (whose family owns Charles Krug) would guide passengers through a tasting with an in-cabin video. “You can do a proper wine pairing before you get to Napa Valley,” Jared says.
Brandon Sharp, chef of Solbar in Calistoga, says Chefs Feed benefits chefs and diners. On Valentine’s Day, with 52 deuces on the books, he extolled the app’s take on the “pulse” of industry trends. He’s no fan of Yelp, where reviews have “no filter, no fact checking,” and “can be flat out wrong.” And he likes how chefs—rather than critics or would-be foodies—have a platform.
“It’s nice to see that kind of thing come to fruition in the food industry,” Sharp says.
When all these great and relatively unknown dishes are highlighted, of course, seats at hidden gems that serve them could become scarce.
“Launching in Wine Country is bittersweet,” says Jared. “As much as we want to let our users know about all the great undiscovered places, it’s those same undiscovered places that make it as unique and adventurous as it is.”
But they couldn’t be more excited about expanding their business into their “home ’hood.”
“I’m selfish,” Steve Jr. says. “It’s one of my favorite places on earth.” chefsfeed.com.
Chefs Feed: How It Works
1. Pick a city
Tell Chefs Feed where you are, or let it find you via GPS.
2. See what’s nearby
Browse by dish or chef to see what looks good.
3. Follow it
When you find a chef whose recommendations you like or trust, add him or her to your feed.
Chefs Feed wine country: A Sneak Peek
Fried chicken - Ad Hoc, Yountville.
BBQ pork sandwich - Buster’s Southern BBQ and Bakery, Calistoga.
Ohlone smoked salmon flatbread - Boon Fly Café, Napa.
Pollo asado special burrito - Villa Corona, St. Helena.
Sunday fried chicken dinner - The Q Restaurant and Bar, Napa.
Chuckburger with cheese - Red Rock Café and Back Door BBQ, Napa.
The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
Dry fry chicken - San Tung, San Francisco.
Fried crab with garlic and hot peppers - R&G Lounge, San Francisco.
Handmade mozzarella caprese - Cook St. Helena, St. Helena.
Grilled lamb riblets - Kokkari, San Francisco.
Glazed pork belly - Redd, Napa.
Pan-roasted Mary’s chicken - Solbar, Calistoga.
Goose and Gander, St. Helena
Spicy king crab - Morimoto, Napa.
Steak tartare - Bistro Jeanty, Yountville.
Shanghai dumplings - Yank Sing, San Francisco.
Terra, St. Helena
English pea salad - The Grill at Meadowood, St. Helena
Fritto misto - Bistro Don Giovanni, Napa
Duck hash - Calistoga Kitchen, Calistoga.