Between cloud kitchens, aggregators and an abundance of restaurants catering to just about every tastebud, there’s no doubt that UAE is a food-lover’s haven.
And in this new delivery-focused market, a new platform has launched that connects chefs directly to customers.
Meelz is an online platform that will help chefs create and sell their products directly to customers in Dubai. Currently in beta phase and scheduled to fully launch in September, it has already partnered with some famous names in the food and beverage industry, including celebrated pastry chef Karim Bourgi, former Ossiano chef Gregoire Berger and Michelin-starred Australian-Lebanese chef Greg Malouf.
Bassel Siblini, who co-founded the venture in partnership with hospitality group The Lab Holding, says the idea for the venture came to him during the pandemic.
“We saw that the F&B sector was one of the hardest hit, not just in the UAE, but around the world, with chefs and staff particularly feeling the brunt. So, we started looking for ways to leverage technology to connect them to customers. A lot of chefs already have active social media profiles. So why not create a chef-powered marketplace to be able to connect with them directly and help them sell all these different things?”
Eight chefs have signed up for the platform so far, and Siblini hopes to add more names to the roster in the coming months.
Through Meelz, customers can order some of the renowned chefs’ signature dishes – from croissants to cakes – which will be delivered through the use of cloud kitchens. There are plans for an Abu Dhabi extension in the future.
“Our target customers are those in the middle and upper income range, people who really appreciate food, are looking for a nice experience, and don’t want to go for the regular options,” says Siblini.
While food delivery aggregators are a dime a dozen now, Meelz differentiates itself in that food delivery is not the only service it offers.
Apart from a delivery menu and recipe boxes, it also has a chef’s store, in partnership with brands such as Chef Middle East, MG Hotels and other culinary institutions, to sell kitchenware. This includes everything from white truffle oil to professional knives and frying pans.
The platform will also organise masterclasses, both short and long-term, so foodies can learn everything from creating pastries to the art of hosting dinners, directly from their favourite chefs. According to Siblini, they will be organising both in-person and online masterclasses in the future.
Many of these star chefs will also host Chef’s Table events so that diners can come in and enjoy meals and interact with the chef in a more private set-up. Sessions already on offer include The Vegan Festival and The Nikkei Experience, both by Peruvian chef Roberto Segura.
Chefs form a central part of the platform, Siblini iterates.
“We treat our chefs as partners and eventually want them to be able to have a source of income through Meelz," he explains.
“It’s all part of a trend we are seeing on the rise of the 'chefpreneur'. Chefs aren’t just limited to kitchens, but are leading their own businesses, creating restaurants, doing endorsements, are even part of media and television shows. And with social media being where it’s at, we think it’s time to monetise this.
“It’s for anyone who likes food and would like to have a more up-close and personal culinary experience.”
Meelz is currently available in a web version (meelz.me), and will soon debut on the Apple & Google Play store.