A New Dining App Aims to Support BIPOC Chefs in the Pandemic

Austin-based Zymmo now connects freelance chefs with customers in the DC area.

Grilled shrimp from chef Kenny Clay. Photo courtesy of Zymmo.

Zymmo, an app connecting freelance chefs to local diners, is launching in the DC area. Founder and CEO Vidhya Subramanian says the service is designed to support chefs who may have lost their jobs or catering and private event clientele due to the pandemic—particularly BIPOC talents. The app allows users to directly order meals and book private dining experiences without going through expensive third party services.

“It’s a platform that is very empowering to the chefs,” says  Subramanian, a tech entrepreneur who left positions at Goldman Sachs and Target to launch Zymmo, which debuted in Austin last year. “They are in complete control.”

Chefs are able to set their menus and prices—and change them as often as they like. Users of the app, called “foodies,” can view the offerings and place orders for pick-up from the chef’s commercial kitchen space or delivery (depending on what the chef offers) directly through Zymmo.

Currently Zymmo is only available to users in Austin and DC. Subramanian says she was drawn to the District for its reputation as a dining city and the diversity of chefs and their cuisines. Right now you’ll find options like strawberry shortcake with buttercream icing from Sharifa Daley, a freelance baker and marketing manager at Ris, or beef patties from One Route Catering chef  Victor Chizinga.

Chefs interested in joining the platform are vetted for qualifications such as restaurant or private catering experience. They keep 100 percent of the proceeds from the orders. Subramanian says customers are charged a 15 percent fee to cover operations.  Zymmo also has a “private experiences” feature where users can hire chefs to cook in their homes for families or small groups. Chefs and foodies can coordinate on menus, dietary restrictions, and COVID safety procedures directly through the app.

Unlike some other chef-to-customer apps, Zymmo doesn’t require chefs to enter into an exclusive agreement. “We actually want the chefs to have more options,” she says. “We hope that given how good Zymmo is, they [will] start using Zymmo as their primary source of income.”