Attention-grabbing names like Jay-Z and Usher are investors in the Virginia-based food tech start-up HUNGRY, along with “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio, local chef Ming Tsai, and high-profile others. The company recently expanded to Boston. The platform aims to make it simple, affordable, and timesaving to have food delivered for a house party or to the office for a staff or client meeting. You order from HUNGRY’s website, picking by cuisine, chef, and price. You’re buying directly from accomplished local chefs in the network — each preparing their own specialty. Staff to set up and clean up is also available. Brothers Eman and Shy Pahlevani came up with the idea for the service three years ago when they were working on their first start-up, LiveSafe. They found, like at many offices, they were ordering the same deli sandwiches or meals from nearby fast casual restaurants to feed employees. The entrepreneurs recognized a platform like HUNGRY would give access to quality foods and interesting dishes, and a way for chefs to connect with corporate clients and boost their business. “There’s a lot of undiscovered talent,” says the company’s chief executive, Jeff Grass. “We saw it as growth for the chef who has amazing skills in the kitchen but not great business skills.” The company first launched in Washington D.C., and later Philadelphia and Atlanta, where former White House and food show chefs, and celebrities’ personal chefs, joined their local networks. In Boston this fall, you can try dishes from Joe Gatto, previously the Red Sox private chef, who is launching a TV food show. HUNGRY diligently vets its chefs, says Grass. “We work to make sure we always get five-star reviews every time.” Why did celebrities like Usher and Jay-Z invest? In Atlanta, HUNGRY teamed up with J’s Kitchen Culinary Incubator, owned by Jonnetta Patton, Usher’s mother. Jay Z’s involvement was spurred through his personal chef, Brandon Crowe, says Grass. The company also plans to do good — for every two meals sold, the price for one is donated to the Boston Food Bank. www.tryhungry.com.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND