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Dickinson College Alumni Couple Raises Funds for Restaurant Industry During Global Pandemic

virtual chef

Tech-savvy alumni, professional chefs provide personalized tips via Chef My Kitchen

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Social-distancing in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is taking a massive toll on the restaurant industry, endangering the livelihood of an estimated 11 million U.S. restaurant workers. And as cooking at home becomes part of the new normal, many are challenged to figure out how to keep mealtime interesting—especially in the wake of limited grocery-store runs—while also using up that can of sliced olives that’s been hanging around in the cupboard since 2019. A Dickinson couple in Brooklyn has a solution—one that allows experienced and newbie home cooks alike to help out America’s restaurants and restaurant workers while getting personalized cook-at-home help from a prominent chef, via videoconference.

Husband-and-wife team Lauren Reynolds '08 and Steven Meyers '08 launched Chef My Kitchen April 9. Participants send in a list of the ingredients they have on hand, and a noted chef from a prominent restaurant creates a recipe based on those ingredients. Customers can opt for a 10- or 30-minute chef consultation or a one-hour video call, during which they’ll be able to cook a personalized recipe, step by step, along with an expert.

“It’s kind of like a virtual Chopped,” says Reynolds, referencing the popular Food Network show.

Startup-savvy Lauren Reynolds and Steven Meyers, both of Dickinson’s class of 2008, founded Chef My Kitchen to benefit struggling restaurants and restaurant workers.

Startup-savvy Lauren Reynolds '08 and Steven Meyers '08 founded Chef My Kitchen to benefit struggling restaurants and restaurant workers.

Reynolds and Meyers met on Move-In Day during their first year at Dickinson. She studied law & policy and now builds customer-service teams for startups like the direct-pay company Sesame. He majored in international business & management and is senior vice president of marketing at the language-learning company Babbel—a passion that he says was sparked during language classes at Dickinson.

After seeing their favorite restaurants in NYC close in response to the pandemic, the couple developed Chef My Kitchen in partnership with their friend Oscar Lorenzzi, executive chef of Nice Matin. They are just two of the many Dickinsonians finding ways to give back in the midst of the COVID-19 health emergency.

“We knew that the restaurant landscape was changing, and we wanted to ensure that the people and places we love were supported during this difficult and uncertain moment,” Reynolds says.

Because the founders and participating chefs are donating their time and talents, all of the proceeds go directly to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which provides emergency relief to the millions of restaurant workers affected by the pandemic shutdown. Chef My Kitchen has raised more than $1,500 for the cause so far, including revenue from 30 video chats booked during the past two weeks alone.

Reynolds says Chef My Kitchen also is a boon for foodies like her and Steven. Like many professional couples in the city, they ate out for virtually every meal—sometimes dine-in, sometimes takeout—before the pandemic. When social distancing guidelines were put into place in NYC, they soon burned through their recipe repertoire, and they missed the special, stress-busting treat of a chef-cooked meal. They now enjoy using Chef My Kitchen multiple times each week.

“The other night we made coq au vin, which sounds fancy, but it was simple and delicious!” Reynolds says. “It was a dish totally outside of our cooking comfort zone, but the chef made it easy by giving us tips with each step.”

Read more stories about how members of the Dickinson community near and far have responded to emerging needs and challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Published May 5, 2020