MAY 23, 2007

Kevin Yu’s Mess Became One of the Top Apps in iTunes

privy profile   |   By Bonnie He

Occupation: Serial Entrepreneur

Based in: Shanghai and Los Angeles

Last Education: University of Southern California


There’s nothing less romantic than screwing up a Valentine’s Day dinner.

But Kevin Yu did, so you don’t have to. That epic #vdayfail inspired cooking app SideChef, and Kevin Yu now helps put out fires (figuratively. You should still call the fire department if you have a real fire).

SideChef is hailed as the GPS of cooking, giving you “turn-by-turn” directions from beginning to end on how cook a meal. And the app comes loaded with a multitude of awesome recipes. We aren’t the only ones who agree.

USA TODAY named it one of the 'Best Apps of 2014', NY Times called SideChef its 'favorite cooking app', and iTunes ranked it Top 4 in Food & Drinks apps!

Before SideChef was winning over tech blogs, Yu was Global Manager of Community Development at gaming conglomerate Blizzard Entertainment, where he was responsible for bringing in over 10 million followers on the brand’s social networks. He helped grow notable games like the Warcraft®, StarCraft® and Diablo® series.

With this diverse portfolio, we know that Kevin Yu is turning up the heat in the app world.



You worked primarily in the gaming industry before. Where did the idea for SideChef come from?

The idea of SideChef, a step-by-step cooking guidance app, came out of pure personal necessity. A few years ago I was attempting to make a Valentine’s Day dinner for an ex-girlfriend, and being that it was one of the first times I’ve actually attempted a multi-course meal, I thought it’d be easy, but ended up screwing up big time. But from that experience, I realized a lot of the mistakes I made in the kitchen were quite common ones, such as forgetting an ingredient until it was too late, or missing the timing of one action, which then affected the other ones following.


You’ve said that you view SideChef as a disrupter. Can you elaborate on that view?

Over recent years there has been a renewed interest in cooking, knowing what goes into your food, and for the newest millennial generation, we’ve found that they often don’t learn how to cook from the family, but more so from online means, and they are often times using various platforms such as recipe from recipe sites, ordering groceries from delivery sites, and instructional videos from YouTube.


When we started, we created SideChef to be the all-in-one app to teach you how to make any recipe step-by-step, with photos, voice guidance, automatic timers, and on-demand instructional videos to show you what ‘zesting a lemon’ means, exactly when you need to know it. Recently, we’ve begun expanding our service to also include convenient one-tap ordering of the ingredients needed for your favorite recipes from your favorite food bloggers or chefs, and when those ingredients arrive, SideChef can also walk you through making that new recipe step-by-step. I believe now, with SideChef, anyone can cook. It’s a good time to tell that friend of yours who thinks they can’t cook.


You recently launched SideChef 2.0. Tell us what’s updated!

Absolutely. With the first version of SideChef, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we create the best cooking guidance experience ever?’ and seeing from our user data and commendations from sources such as USA Today for ‘Best apps of 2014’ and others, we believe we’ve now built that. For 2.0, we wanted to tackle the question ‘ How can we make the exploration and inspirational aspect of the cooking experience, just as innovative?' Thus for our latest version of SideChef, we have revamped the UI design to be very heavily visually driven, to truly show off the amazing recipes of our partners. Additionally, we’ve added a feature we call ‘Chronicles,’ which will feature a new cover for SideChef each day, covering topics about seasonal ingredients, flavor palettes, chef interviews, new recipes, and will be overlayed with what we call ‘Explore Points’ that users can tap and interact with to learn more about specific items in the photo you see. For instance, if you see a lime, you can click on the explore point on top of it, to learn everything about a lime, including instructional videos, seasonal tips, etc., so a user can keep learning about food and cooking to their heart's content.


You split your time between Los Angeles - Santa Monica, specifically - and Shanghai. What’s it like to live internationally? 

California is easily one of the best places to live in the world. But there aren’t many places that are happening as much as Shanghai right now. There is an energy there that is like none other, something that is gravitating people to go there, and to simply build things. I tell people all the time, ‘Go check out Shanghai now, because you’ll be catching it at a special time in history. It’s like being in Florence during the Renaissance combined with the industrial revolution.’ I’ve met more people internationally in Shanghai, than I have traveling through the US and Europe.


What are your top 5 places to eat at in Shanghai and in LA?


1.  Jianguo / xiao long bao ‘local favorite’

2.  Mercato

3.  Liquid Laundry

4.  Sproutworks

5.  Baoism

Los Angeles

1.  Sugarfish

2.  C&Os

3.  Son of a Gun

4.  Ink

5.  Good ol' Kogi Tacos


Is there anything else about yourself that you’d like to tell our Privy Circle readers?

Believe in yourself before you start expecting others to believe in you.


What do you like about Privy Circle and the promise it offers?

I’m a huge fan of technology bringing people with shared interests together and the community Privy Circle has built is a great one to share the perspectives and stories of Asian Americans.


Onto the Fun Stuff!


My last meal on Earth would be:
Taiwanese beef noodle soup (niu rou mien) made by my mom.

Home away from home:
Home is where the heart is. (It is about the people, not the place.)

Dream vacation:
It’d be in a time machine with someone on the same wavelength.

Essential wardrobe item:
Fitted blazer for the occasion.

Essential gadget:
My fitbit. I found that I don’t even wear watches anymore. Works with any occasion.



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