Interview with Indu Sudhakar and Caleb Askins, cofounders of Chefpanzee
This article is part of a series featuring business executives who choose to live and work in Utah. If you know of an executive we should interview, please contact us.
Indu Sudhakar and Caleb Askins consider themselves professional eaters and avid travelers. The dynamic duo is passionate about both. Their travel excursions are heavily centered around culinary experiences.
It was only natural they combined their passions for food and travel and founded Chefpanzee.
They started Chefpanzee with the mission of highlighting rising, talented chefs, not established restaurants or chains. You won’t find Olive Garden or P.F. Chang’s on Chefpanzee. Built to disrupt the food delivery service, the company partners the best local chefs to deliver authentic cuisine. The company provides its users with a more intimate understanding of the person cooking their food, who they are, where they are from and what drives their passion.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1 — Browse which chefs are currently cooking. View their menu.
Step 2 — Place your order.
Step 3 — Receive your meal, delivered. It’s that simple!
By helping provide chefs with certified kitchen spaces, a marketing platform and logistical solutions; Chefpanzee helps talented chefs more easily build a brand in their community. In exchange, diners receive delicious, authentic cuisine from a nearby chef, delivered directly to where they are.
How did you get started in the industry?
We had no prior experience in the food industry but followed our passions. We leveraged our research and technology experience and immersed ourselves in the Salt Lake City culinary scene. We explored every pocket of hidden culinary talent we could find, from food truck chefs to catering companies and even relatively unknown restaurants. We spoke to commissaries, nonprofits, community members and other entrepreneurs to subsidize any experience or knowledge we lacked. We sought out subject-matter experts who were willing to help support our mission.
What recent professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
We recently launched an app for Android and iOS devices. We are still beta testing it, but so far, the app has made food delivery more seamless for customers and enabled us to scale the number of chefs we host on our platform.
We are about to roll out our tasting panel comprised of influencers and local business professionals. This panel will encourage honest feedback on our chefs and their dishes.
What drew you to Utah?
We made a spreadsheet of more than 30 cities we were interested in and created categories like cost of living, friendliness, entrepreneurial opportunities, ease of doing business, food culture, diversity, family-friendliness and more. Using available data, we objectively rated each city, and Salt Lake City was in the top three of almost every category and number one in many. The decision was easy.
What do you like most about living in Utah?
Both of us have lived in several states across the country, and we can say without a doubt that Utah is our favorite state. We love how beautiful it is. Everything from the picturesque mountains to the red rock deserts to the abundance of green hiking trails, not to mention the incredible sunsets!
We are also impressed by the friendly community. We find ourselves connecting with new people who are eager to lend a hand nearly every day.
What do you like most about doing business in Utah?
It has been easier to network with people in Utah than any other state we have done business in. As we knocked on doors and talked to gatekeepers, we weren’t met with the usual apprehension we were used to encountering in other cities.
We also find the burgeoning tech and food scene in Utah to be an incredible help as we grow our business. The tech scene is growing quickly but is not so saturated that it feels impossible to make a dent. The food scene is a hidden gem that rivals larger metros like San Francisco and New York City, and that surprises many people.
What advice do you have for individuals considering starting a business, or relocating their business, to Utah?
Don’t let the stereotypes fool you. It is easy to have preconceived notions about Utah; many of these opinions come from people who haven’t experienced Utah.
Take the plunge and get to know the community, and then you can make your assessment.
What is your primary challenge of doing business in Utah?
The culinary scene in Utah is diverse and growing. However, there is still a huge population of Utahns who have never tried unique foods from around the world. We know our chefs’ dishes are delicious and that people will love them. We need to convince people to try them.
What is your business philosophy?
Be honest, and do right by your customers. We put our chefs and customers first and believe this is the only path to sustainable success. It’s also important to keep learning. As an entrepreneur, being open-minded is critical.
Tell me a fun fact about yourself.
Caleb: When it comes to food, I will try anything so long as it doesn’t have any mayonnaise. Yuck!
Indu: I need to sit on a cushion when I drive. I’m only four-feet, 10-inches and can’t see over the dashboard.
What is your fondest dining experience?
One summer, we stayed with a local Italian family in the Tuscan countryside. Together with Norma, Volfango, Nona (grandma) Brunetta and Nono (grandpa) Silano, we prepared a meal of panzanella, chicken saltimbocca and tiramisu. The meal was delicious, but what impressed us most was how much love went into preparing and cooking it.
We enjoyed dinner that evening in their yard that overlooked the Tuscan hillside, devouring our meals and chatting over glasses of wine and limoncello. Although our Italian wasn’t great, somehow the language barrier didn’t matter. The food and experience of cooking together bonded us. And, the limoncello didn’t hurt.