< View all news

Shef, a New Amex Ventures Investment, Delivers Homemade Meals from Local Cooks

March 1, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Shef

Shef, an online chef-to-consumer marketplace, is one of the latest portfolio investments to receive funding from Amex Ventures.

Amex Ventures is American Express’ strategic venture capital investment group that includes a portfolio of companies that focus on consumer, B2B, Web3 and enterprise capabilities.

Shef brings to the table an innovative concept connecting local, food safety-certified cooks with customers in their community who are looking for healthy, high-quality meal options. This model also gives thousands of passionate cooks the opportunity to turn their culinary talents into a small business for the first time to help earn a meaningful income selling homemade dishes.

Doesn’t a nice homemade meal that is delivered and made from local cooks in your own community sound good right now?

“At American Express, we’re all about shopping small and supporting the next generation of small business owners,” said Kevin Tsang, Managing Director for Consumer Services Investments at Amex Ventures. “Shef has turned starting a small food business – something previously cost-prohibitive for most – into a reality for thousands of people across the country. In supporting Shef, we’re honored to invest in a majority female and people of color marketplace that’s dramatically lowering the price of entry into the food industry.”

Below, a few cooks share why they make meals for their community, including their experience taking a leap to become a small business owner via Shef:

Photo: Courtesy of Ashantha Rubera

Originally from Sri Lanka, Ashantha Rubera, has brought together flavors from the East and West to deliver fusion dishes to the Los Angeles community through Shef since joining the platform in 2022.

“One of my dreams is to really see island-style cooking, especially Sri Lankan cuisine, further embraced and enjoyed in Southern California,” Rubera said. “Every dish I make is a little taste of home for me and I get to share that with my community. I love home-cooking because it's not mass produced – it is all the chef's love of cooking and the heart and soul of each dish going from one kitchen straight to your table.”

“Becoming a small business owner has been an incredible step of faith. Especially with the many uncertainties in the food industry that emerged during the pandemic, saying ‘yes’ to making cooking and food my career required courage and the willingness to embrace the unknown. But having the Shef community and the support of my customers has been an incredible part of this journey – and what has made it all possible for me to do what I love for a living.”

Photo: Courtesy of Mary Luu

Mary Luu, a New York-based chef who specializes in health-conscious cooking, initially joined Shef in 2020 to bring locally sourced meals to her community amid the pandemic. Now, with an expanded reach through Shef Luu considers herself a small business owner empowered to continue to create innovative dishes for hardworking professionals and families. 

“I started cooking at a very early age – learning my first recipes from my grandmother that came from her Chinese and Vietnamese heritage. My father was also a chef, so I soon joined him in the restaurant industry to refine these recipes – which I’ve brought with me to New York. There’s so much inspiration to be found here and it’s where I’ve learned to bring unique and modern flavors to traditional dishes. Being able to bring some of my childhood favorites to the New York and New Jersey communities is such an incredible feeling,” said Luu.

Photo: Courtesy of Adriana Robleto

Adriana Robleto, who has been a Los-Angeles based cook on Shef since April 2022, said: “My passion for food started in Nicaragua where I would wake up to my grandmother’s cooking – which became a household name to our community. She would sell her food outside of the house where people would line up to buy Doña. Years later, my mother and aunt opened the restaurant La Cocina de Doña Haydée to bring my grandmother’s admired recipes to so many others.”

Following in the footsteps of the women who raised her, Robleto began her own business, Pinto Foods, and joined Shef where she has felt empowered to share the joy of Nicaraguan food with others.

“Being an immigrant, you want to be able to do things which remind you of home and cooking these dishes for others helps me stay connected to my family and culture. Having profoundly supportive customers who are open to trying different and new dishes is what empowers me as a small business owner,” Robleto said.

Photo: Courtesy of Vera Guttilla

New York-based chef Vera Guttilla grew up in Palermo, Sicily, surrounded by a large family with a shared love for delicious homemade food including her grandpa’s olive oil and her Grandma Maria’s ragu.

Guttilla started cooking in 2012 after her father passed away and her mother took on a full time job. “Cooking came very naturally to me, and I absolutely loved it,” she said.

“After trial and error I was finally able to make a ragu sauce just as good as Grandma Maria. That's when I started replicating more of my family's recipes. I go to Sicily every summer, and every year I would follow along with whoever was cooking by taking notes and listing ingredients. Now, I can proudly say I have mastered Italian cooking and my family’s recipes which have all been staples in my household.”

A member of the Shef community since 2022, Guttilla is on a mission to share her talents and help people experience true and authentic Italian food.

Photo: Courtesy of Latoya Watson-Antoine

Latoya Watson-Antoine’s Shef menu is inspired by her fond memories of growing up in Jamaica, as well as her engagement as an active member of the community.

Watson said, “Shef has allowed me to offer my community a love that can only be shared through an exchange of food and culture. I’ve been inspired by the melting pot that Jamaica represents to create new, fusion-inspired dishes that feed the soul. Joining Shef has helped me to expand my reach within the community – growing from cooking for family and loved ones to being a small business owner. For that I am grateful because I look at each new dish as a connecting bridge and each new person served, as a new family member.”

To see cooks prepare some of their favorite dishes, visit @AmericanExpress on TikTok.

Multimedia Files:

< View all news