Dinner Elf delivers a chef to your door, armed with ingredients and ready to cook

August 17, 2016

There are plenty of companies out there delivering groceries to your door. Some even cut up the portions of ingredients for you to simply cook the meal up at home. But an Austin company is taking a different approach, offering all that AND a skilled chef who comes into your home, makes you dinner, and cleans up before leaving. 

Meet Dinner Elf, the 2014 Austin startup from husband-wife duo Jesse and Nicole Vickey. Originally targeting busy families who want to spend more time in the evening together and less time preparing dinner in the kitchen (a personal pain point of the Vickeys), Dinner Elf has evolved into the perfect gift for new parents, families who have lost a loved one, and folks returning home from hospitals.
The Vickeys moved their family of four to Austin in 2013 with the intention of starting up a business in a city that fosters startup culture. What they didn’t know yet was what exactly to start up.
“With two kids, the end of the day for us is super hectic, doing homework, putting dinner on the table and reading books before bed. Everything always feels rushed,” said Jesse, noting how important this time of day is for kids in general.
They tried out personal chef services in tow,n but quickly learned how expensive it can be. The ingredients-in-a-box services also didn’t fit the bill of what they were looking for. 
“We thought, ‘Would it be possible to have an in-home chef cook for us at an affordable price point?’” Jesse said.
After a few months of testing food types at different price points and in different quantities, they discovered it was possible to offer the service. The next step was finding personable, friendly cooks who were looking for a change of pace from chopping onions on the line to helping out a family by cooking for them and building a personal relationship. 
“We’ve had more chefs interested than what we can handle,” said Jesse. “These cooks are really interested in a more fulfilling, more flexible environment.”
Two years from the initial launch, Dinner Elf now has a team of five “elves” who travel to homes throughout Austin, West Lake Hills, Lakeway, Pflugerville, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Spicewood, Georgetown and Hutto. And yes, for those concerned about an elf they’ve never met entering their home, all chefs are background checked, insured, and as Jesse said, really nice people.
“A lot of our customers treat our chefs as an extended member of the family,” said Jesse, adding that many customers use Dinner Elf on a weekly basis, taking advantage of the company’s subscription service which sends the same chef each time. 
Customers have the option to schedule individual appointments directly on the website or sign up for a subscription for a weekly or every-other-week visit. Pricing begins at three dinners for $10/serving. For those wanting to gift Dinner Elf, you can purchase a gift card on the site, or get a group together and collectively buy four weeks of meals through a meal coordination page offered by the company. Dinner Elf even has a spot on their website for registries.
Dinner Elf was funded by bootstrapping efforts and features north of 60 meal options for its consumers. The company currently works out of Capital Factory in their accelerator program and hopes to offer seasonal menus, specialty diet menus, and increase their service areas to outside in the near future. 
Images provided by Dinner Elf
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