Website fills a hungry void for those who lack kitchen talents

Carolyn Webb
Maggie Koo, front, has all the right ingredients for architecture student Natalie Alima.
Maggie Koo, front, has all the right ingredients for architecture student Natalie Alima. Photo: Justin McManus

Since Moses was a boy, students and young professionals have subsisted on diets of instant noodles, baked beans and fast food.

A new website, called BYfork, seeks to change all that. It enables home cooks to sell cheap meals to people who don't have time or the ability to cook, yet don't want junk food.

Co-founder Joel Gory, a law graduate, said most BYfork customers were students and young professionals, 25 to 35, and most meals cost less than $10.

He described it as an ''online community marketplace to buy and sell home-cooked meals''.

Cooks range from mums whose children have left home but still love to cook, to budding master chefs, ''who think their pesto is the greatest pesto in the world and want to show off''.

Maggie Koo, 43, is a passionate cook for her husband, Raj Singh, their two children and friends at her home in Mulgrave.

Ms Koo, who is not a professional cook, has just sold her first meal on BYfork, a roasted vegetable and caramelised garlic risotto for $13, of which she kept $11.05 - the website's cut per meal is 15 per cent.

The customer was Natalie Alima, 24, a Monash University interior architecture student and part-time waiter who is sharing a Caulfield apartment with three other students.

Ms Alima found BYfork via its Facebook site, which has photos and descriptions of meals, ''and I was like, it's actually cheap, and really good food''.


After ordering from Ms Koo, and paying by credit card, she drove the five kilometres to Ms Koo's house and picked it up.

''I brought the risotto home and they all jumped on it,'' she said of her housemates. ''It was really good, it was very fresh. It was nice to have a home-cooked meal.''

Mr Gory got the inspiration for BYfork (pronounced B-Y-fork, as in ''bring your fork'') in 2010 when he was an exchange student in the Netherlands. He lived in a share house whose residents cooked sporadically.

He found an online community forum in which locals posted what they were cooking and invited strangers to either pick the food up, or to dine with them. It cost the equivalent of $7 to $9 and he got to meet new people.

''I thought it was amazing. I was so surprised there was nothing like that in Melbourne.''

Co-founder Jarrod Herscu said the difference of home cooking is that the cooks are ''putting their love into it. You can meet the cook, ask what's in the ingredients … the dish is usually something which is quite unique, that you can't get from the local deli or pizza store''.