When Linda Delaney’s kids went off to college, she found herself with a little too much free time. Hopping on a website called ThumbTack, she discovered that she could parlay her expert cooking skills into part-time income through the freelance economy.

Now Delaney cooks several times a week for both regular customers and new ones she found through a young Glendale, Calif.-based site called DishDivvy. An avid chef, Delaney likes the ability to make a little side income doing something she loves and does anyway. But a word of warning is necessary for those who want to follow Delaney’s lead and cook for a living.

Cooking-oriented side gigs fall faster than a cold souffle. SideHusl.com started researching sites that allowed you to cook for a living with a list of 20 different platforms and discovered that at least a dozen have gone out of business.

Cooking carcasses

MyTable, Meal Surfers, Umi Kitchen, Sprig, Maple, Leftover Swap, Cuchine and the ever-popular Josephine are all once-popular cooking gigs that have disappeared or formally folded. A few others, such as KitchenSurfing and ShareYourMeal still have websites, but don’t appear to be offering meals — or at least not offering them in the U.S.

To be sure, offering home-cooked meals to strangers is an unusually tricky business. Not only do you have to find a way to provide some consistency and quality control in a profession that many cooks consider “art,” subject to constant recipe tinkering, you have to get meals to customers before they’re cold. Few other side hustles have the same time pressure.

Legal limbo

Worse, home cooks must deal with an often unfriendly regulatory environment. In most states, selling home-cooked meals for delivery is illegal — a violation of food safety laws. California, where Delaney works, is one of the few states that has passed legislation making home cooks legal. However, that law is so new that it doesn’t technically go into effect until January. 

For now, some of the remaining cooking opportunities, such as Feastly, get around home-cook prohibitions by offering cooks access to a commercial kitchen. Others, including DishDivvy, require all cooks and customers to be part of a closed community — essentially a cooking club.

“We have had to be a little creative is offering this as a private service,” says Ani Torosyan, chief executive of DishDivvy. “When you purchase the food through us, you are essentially commissioning a private cook to buy groceries and cook for you.”

The legalization effort in California is part of a national effort to legalize home cooks everywhere. It was started by one of the home cooking industry’s pioneers, a site called Josephine.  However, Josephine collapsed earlier this year after a two-year battle with regulators over violating California’s Homemade Food Act. The Homemade Food Act effectively prohibits individuals from making and selling hot meals.

“At this point, our team has simply run out of the resources to continue to drive the legislative change, business innovation, and broader cultural shift needed to sustain Josephine,” the company said in an email to its members in February.

Josephine’s founders, however, continued to champion the C.O.O.K. Alliance, which pushed through the new law.


Legal or not, numerous sites offer ways for home cooks all over the country to ply their trade and find new customers. These sites include EatWith, which is available worldwide and the site that got Delaney started, Thumbtack. For the professional gourmet cook looking for additional clients, there’s also, HelloCheffy, which connects chefs with people hoping to host private dinners at home.

But, a word to the wise: even if you find a cooking platform that you like, you may want to start building your own clientele. After all, you don’t want your budding business burned if your favorite cooking platform goes up in flames.