ST. GEORGE — Local entrepreneur Tyler Taggart was exercising one day when he had a vision -or rather, a craving.
“I was thinking about what kind of food I wanted,” Taggart told St. George News. “I decided that I didn’t want food from any of the nearby restaurants. I wanted homemade food, but I was too tired to make it. I wondered: where can I go to get some good homemade food?”
That was three years ago. Taggart may have inherited his entrepreneurial spirit from his dad, who was one of the co-founders of Ancestry.com. Add to the mix his love of tech and food and you’ve got the ingredients that sparked his imagination. Now, his vision has manifested itself as an app, Local Chow, which created an aggregated marketplace for buyers and sellers of homemade food.
“After prototyping and experimenting with the app’s look and feel, we launched in January,” Taggart said. “We’ve got about 20 people selling in the St. George area. The app has over 400 downloads, and about 150 of those are buying.”
To be sure, there has always been a market for homemade food. Whether it’s a computational biologist who bakes his own sourdough bread or a chef-of-the-year award winner who’s just moved to the area, Southern Utah has its share of entrepreneurial home-based chefs. Taggart said he strives to earn his living by providing them with a place to sell their goods.
“Local Chow is a marketing platform like Uber, Airbnb and Etsy,” Taggart said. “But it’s focusing on homemade food. Whether it’s students looking to earn money for college or retirees who love to cook but don’t have a market to plug into, I’m trying to create opportunities for them.”
Taggart is proactive in his search. He combs Facebook for potential vendors who have interesting dishes to sell, then he invites them to join the platform.
“That’s how I found Cory LaFranchi, whose Taco Tuesdays have become a best-seller on Local Chow,” he said.
LaFranchi is no stranger to the kitchen. Whether it’s running an award-winning food truck in Seattle’s South Sound, providing unique dining experiences for celebrities like Wiz Khalifa or winning the heart of a food critic who moved through the Pacific Northwest like the heroine of a John le Carré novel, LaFranchi has done it.
“I’m a chef at heart,” LaFranchi told St. George News. “I love to put fun twists on street food, and I build my menu by watching the seasons.”
When Taggart first approached LaFranchi about selling food out of his home, the latter had reservations.
“It seemed kind of sketchy,” LaFranchi said. “But Tyler knows the law. You can sell food out of your home, as long as the buyer picks it up.”
So, LaFranchi, who said he knows how to run a clean, orderly kitchen, went to work selling tacos on Tuesdays and burgers on Fridays.
“When I’m around,” LaFranchi added. “I travel to Vegas pretty regularly, and I’m busy with my family, too.”
The app opened up two worlds for LaFranchi, who likes to express himself through food.
“I like to meet my neighbors,” he said. “I also like to experiment with food.”
While LaFranchi loves Local Chow, one of his driving ambitions is to open a restaurant in St. George.
“This is the perfect way to try out recipes and push new food without the pressure of overhead,” LaFranchi said. “I hope that, this way, I may attract some investors.”
Like LaFranchi, Taggart also has bigger ambitions. And, like LaFranchi, he’s also looking for the money to turn his dreams into reality.
“Right now, I’m pouring all of my own earnings into this business,” said Taggart, who currently works as a channel manager for Black Rifle Coffee Company. “My dream is to build Local Chow from from a start-up to something that will impact the global economy through unique dining experiences.”
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