Causes Week 2016: App cooks up business for home chefs

A mobile app founded by Renton Yap and Loh Kia Meng helps aspiring home cooks, especially those from low-income families and stay-at-home mothers, earn some extra income.
Hcook co-founders (from left) Renton Yap and Loh Kua Meng, 39, with Madam Herny Kamal, a housewife who sells food through the mobile app, which connects home cooks with hungry buyers.
Hcook co-founders (from left) Renton Yap and Loh Kua Meng, 39, with Madam Herny Kamal, a housewife who sells food through the mobile app, which connects home cooks with hungry buyers.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The weeks leading up to Hari Raya each year are busy for homemaker Suaidah Soib, 25.

The kitchen in her three-room flat turns into a production wonderland filled with cookies and cakes fresh out of the oven. Her baked goods are so good that friends and relatives pay her to bake a few extra.

Recently, the mother of one learnt that she can bake for a steady stream of buyers throughout the year and earn about $200 to $300 a month, thanks to a mobile app that connects home cooks with hungry buyers.

Madam Suaidah, who is known as Batter Chatter on the Hcook app, said the additional money helps to supplement her husband's income.

Hcook was launched in July by two friends and lists home-cooked meals for a pool of hungry buyers. The app features 200 home cooks and more than 1,200 listings of food, ranging from local cuisine to Thai and western dishes.


Registered individuals can upload a photo and list their food on the app, and interested buyers can place orders and collect them.They can also have the food delivered.

Hcook co-founder Renton Yap, 38, said the app enables home chefs to showcase their food and sell their wares to an online audience. He added that it is especially helpful to low-income women, who make up 10 per cent of the home cooks featured.

Madam Suaidah said: "With the extra income, I buy my child's milk and diapers. And since we just got a home, it helps with the household bills too."

Madam Herny Kamal, 38, who quit her interior design job in 2014 to focus on caring for her two children, now makes $500 a month by baking and selling cakes and cookies through Hcooks.

"I have always enjoyed taking photos of food I have cooked. The app gives me extra income to spend on myself and my kids," she said.

There are at least three such food apps in Singapore now.

Just last month, Share Food Singapore was launched with 200 home cooks, while Heartland Chefs has had 144 home-cook sign-ups since it was launched in October.

All the app makers said they adhere to the National Environment Agency's (NEA) guidelines for the Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme, where individuals can prepare small quantities of food for sale. A licence is not required from the NEA under these guidelines.

Mr Yap of Hcook said those who apply to be home cooks on the Hcook app are assessed by its staff, who visit interested cooks to make sure that their kitchens are clean and the bins are closed, and that the cooks have hygienic practices, including the separation of raw and cooked food.

These Hcook staff have taken the WSQ Conduct Food and Beverage Hygiene Audit course, which trains them in conducting hygiene checks.

Madam Herny said the app is a stepping stone to bigger dreams.

"The app gives me the motivation to start my own cafe. With the app, I am making more connections with other cooks and friends, so maybe I can start my own place one day," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'App cooks up business for home chefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe