The Death of the Cookbook?

A pair of local Internet start-ups are giving home cooks a new reason to clear off the bookshelf
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Leafing through a shoebox full of goop-covered recipe cards is a seasonal ritual fewer and fewer Americans are embracing. The sauce-splattered cookbook beside the stove is being replaced by a butter-smeared iPad, with two new L.A.-based companies tapping into the growing recipe tech market.

“With all that’s going on in technology and food, how we’ve been learning to cook hasn’t changed at all,” says Jeff Appelbaum, founder of the online cooking school Salted. “You’re still either buying a cookbook for 50 dollars or looking into a sea of recipes online, where there’s a dearth of trust.” For Appelbaum, who worked in marketing and e-commerce before launching Salted, the solution to the trust problem lies in snagging respected chefs like John Sedlar to share their know-how on film. Using what Appelbaum calls a “Netflix model,” subscribers pay a monthly fee for access to star-studded videos that illustrate how to do everything from chop an onion to break down an entire lamb, which is what Bestia’s Ori Menashe demonstrates in one of his four online classes. “That’s what I do every day in my kitchen: teach,” he says. “I dropped out of culinary school after three months. I got where I am today by watching and learning from other chefs.”

For those of us who are more likely to tackle banana bread than butchery, the Santa Monica-based app SideChef—which broke into the iOS Top 10 within a month of its launch—guides users step-by-step through recipes in real time, similar to a GPS. “Most cooking mistakes are not about technique as much as bad timing or forgetting an ingredient,” says company founder Kevin Yu, a veteran of the video game industry. SideChef not only holds your hand through one of the app’s blogger-submitted recipes, but it allows you to import your own recipes, which other users can rate and share. “It’s like Yelp for eating in,” says Yu.

We’re not sure how Grandma would feel about allowing the public to critique her famous latkes, so until you can upload the recipe’s schmaltz stains and wobbly penmanship, we’ll keep that one in the family.

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