New Austin-based service brings the city’s top chefs to your kitchen

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Life in the restaurant industry is complicated, but Austin loves his chefs.

Zach Knight, an Austin restaurant industry veterinarian of 12 years, was on a gondola in Aspen with his friend Emmie Nostitz when the idea of activity was born in 2020. Knight received a call from a client, if he could call them that, asking to be connected with a chef in Austin for a private dinner at home. He had made these personal connections to keep the spirit of the restaurant going during the pandemic, but it wasn’t a business yet.

Nostitz, a creative director in advertising living in New York, saw this call as the signal it was: there was a market for this kind of connection. Over the next six months, Knight and Nostitz exchanged calls and texts filled with serendipitous ideas for a slowly unfolding informal product.

One of Knight’s appeals included an acknowledgment (that Tivity had to be real) and an invitation (that Nostitz should join, no pressure). Like many New Yorkers ready for a change, Nostitz found herself in Austin for a visit two weeks later, and for a home in 2021.

Tivity has branched out since then – with markets in Austin, Aspen, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago – but the service is still in a sweet spot between having an established community and enjoying complete freedom. within its own system. Most questions about how the service works are answered with a question: “How do you need it to work?”

As of July 2022, there is a Google Form to start. He wonders about the necessary logistics and opens up to the “ambience”. The text boxes solicit information about the purpose of the event, the desired atmosphere and the type of guests, but above all, not the name of a chef or a restaurant. But by tapping into a vast pool of talent that goes beyond catering – former Uchiko sous chef Ben Savage and former Licha’s Cantina executive chef Justin Delgado, to name just two – it’s hard to go wrong.

“I think one of the best representations of what we do is a dating app. We’re a matchmaker for chefs and customers,” says Knight. “We know what chefs do, we know what chefs want. customers and we match those experiences.”

Like a consultant, Tivity offers an opinion, or at least an idea. The team noticed patterns at the start of conversations — customers choosing the same chefs and the same types of plates over and over again — that kept service unnecessarily restricted.

“They say we want the chicken or the steak, and they can’t think outside the box,” Nostitz says, emphasizing this paralysis of choice. “We end up talking to them and offering them a Peruvian meal that they never would have thought of.”

One of Tivity’s most defining first meals came during a more restrictive phase of the pandemic, for a client hosting her husband’s birthday party. She asked for a steak. When she and Knight began planning over the phone, she mentioned that they would usually be in Spain, but could not travel for the anniversary festivities. Tivity connected the couple with a chef to recreate “the dinner they would have had [in Spain]’, who baked a Spanish cake that made the birthday celebrant shed tears over the dessert.

“Before Uber, having a black car pick you up was like having a driver,” Knight says, “and having a chef in your house was just something you saw on TV. We’re really trying to reduce that to let it be a common idea.

They succeed. Tivity can kick things off for a personalized meal 24 hours after receiving a form, with around a recommended month in advance. Given the enormous variability offered by Tivity (and the pricing flexibility needed to maintain it), a simple buffet-style buffet could run a customer about the same bill per person as most priced menus. cheap landlines around Austin on vacation. Meal preps are even cheaper, but for larger budgets, a plated dinner is on par with Austin’s top restaurants.

It’s as ready for an exclusive company party as it is for a girls’ night out. And hopefully, the duo say, it can also make life easier for chefs, who suddenly have the opportunity to get creative and build a brand outside of the kitchen, earn extra cash, or even to compensate for a leisure trip near a distant client.

Both Knight and Nostitz talk about the life-changing potential of food, for chefs and everyone else at the table. Why should we be picky about which table it is?

More information about Tivity, including a detailed inquiry form and transparent pricing, is available at thetivity.com.


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