DineCasa wants to make home cooking easier. Photo: Kim Wiens.
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DineCasa pairs hungry customers with personal chefs, gets featured on Next Gen Den

University of Ottawa graduate Sabrina Leblanc was having dinner with some friends when she commented on how nice it would be if someone else could do the cooking. “It was just a conversation we were having with friends and we said ‘why don’t we do that?’”

This led Leblanc to create DineCasa, a new app that pairs hungry dinner guests with personal chefs. “The concept is really to bring a chef that takes care of everything, and you can spend some quality time with your guests,” she said.

Leblanc said the app is designed for small dinner parties from 4 to 60 people, a market largely ignored by catering companies. “The reality is there’s not a lot of services for smaller groups, we felt there was a need there.”

Leblanc says people will prefer DineCasa over going to a restaurant, because “people enjoy being in the comfort of their home.”

Leblanc is a graduate of the Telfer School of Management, an experience  she said helped her develop the passion and, well, hunger of an entrepreneur. “The idea is one thing, but actually taking the idea and building something, I think Telfer was a huge part of that,” she said. “It just made it seem more feasible.”

Most of the chefs on the platform come from local culinary schools, primarily Algonquin College and La Cité Collegiale. “We thought, they’re looking for more opportunity to earn extra income, they want to build their portfolio, they want experience, so that would be a good place to start.”

Algonquin students can even earn credits towards their program by working with DineCasa. “It’s a win-win situation,” said Leblanc, adding that it’s less expensive for customers as well.

DineCasa also started to expand beyond students to professional chefs.

Leblanc said that, in the future, she hopes to offer servers, bartenders, and even sommeliers on DineCasa as well.

While she thinks there could be a large market for DineCasa, Leblanc said people don’t really think of hiring personal chefs, or think it would be too expensive. “We do have to educate the market, because it’s not a concept that’s very known at the moment,” she said.

One thing that will certainly garner attention for DineCasa is its recent feature on the CBC’s Dragon’s Den spinoff, Next Gen Den.

While the Dragons indicated the idea showed promise, none of them bit on Leblanc’s pitch—though Shopify Chief Operating Officer Harley Finkelstein, another Telfer grad, did suggest combining the app with a dating site.

Though the judges expressed some concern about what Dragon Michael Hyatt called “the serial killer problem,” Nicole Verkindt, another Dragon, said after the pitch “who would have thought we’d jump into some stranger’s car for a ride?”

“We missed our chance!” said Verkindt, as the episode ends.

Leblanc said she got some great feedback from the Dragons, and that the experience helped shape the app into what it is today.