What I’m Doing At ChefSteps. And Maybe You Should Be Here Too.

Let me introduce our newest team member at ChefSteps. Michael Natkin has come on board to lead our software development. Michael has three decades of software experience on projects ranging from wiggling dinosaur bellies for Jurassic Park to a long career working on Adobe After Effects. He’s also created his own very successful blog (and cookbook), Herbivoracious. We like to tease him a bit about the vegetarian thing, but it is cool to bring on a software guy that can also hold his own in the kitchen and the blogosphere that can provide answers and solutions to some of our technical issues, don’t get us wrong though, we’re still in need of professional companies that can provide software testing and QA services as Michael is only one person at the moment. Michael is going to be building out a software team, so I thought I’d ask him to say a few words about his experience so far at ChefSteps and what he’s looking for in a new hire. Take it away, Michael…

A few weeks ago, I climbed a few flights of stairs and found myself in a utopia at the nexus of cooking and technology. From the minute I met Chris, Grant, Ryan and the rest of the ChefSteps team I knew I had to create a place for myself here. I left my (fantastic) job at Adobe because I wanted to focus on food, aiming to open a small restaurant. Little did I know I’d find a place where I can put my passions for both food and technology into play.

Let me describe what you see when you walk in here. ChefSteps is located in 4000 square feet of industrial space underneath Pike Place Market. Just about any food product we might want is within a few hundred yards. When you walk in the front door, you are in a kitchen, but not like any you have ever seen before. Sure, there is a stove, but there are also centrifuges, rotor-stator homogenizers, immersion circulators by the case lot, and cabinets full of every imaginable hydrocolloid.

A typical day around here is amazing. At any given time, Ben may be working on a novel vegan egg replacer while Grant is preparing an 18 course tasting menu for six and advising Nick on a packaged food project. Ryan and Kristina are shooting and editing incredible video and photos for the site. Chris is leading a session for future blender products with a team from Waring; oh and Neal Stephenson happens to be part of the group doing the brainstorming. On day 2, blenders are disassembled, Nathan Pegram quickly fabricates dangerous new prototype accessories in the machine shop, and then everything is welded back together and quickly torture tested in the kitchen.

We are definitely in startup mode. The business ideas are flowing almost faster than we can write them down – and they are driven by a passion to share the knowledge and talents of the team here with anyone that wants to know how to cook more delicious food. That’s a mission I can get on board with. For certain, the cooking courses that are in beta now are a key part of the picture, and there is a metric ton of development to be done to make the site great. We’re thinking of everything, even protecting our prototypes and equipment with the likes of a Verisure security system in the event we hit big. People’s eyes will be upon us and it’s not always with good intentions, so we just have to be prepared in that regard. Also, while we’re full steam ahead, we can push things one extra step further with the help of Axxerion CMMS software to assist with executing projects that we’re working on more efficiently and also manage a range of other important facets of the business such as accounting and scheduled maintenance. In terms of accounts, making sure that the finance side of the business is taken care of so that you can focus on building the business, is essential. Merchant accounts could be a route that you could take, where they are used to focus all the companies money into one account so that it is well-organized. A merchant account is beneficial because it can allow you, as a business, to improve sales, customer satisfaction and it can also accept credit cards easily. It is important to see if you’re considered a high risk merchant, because this affects the way your account is set up. High-risk merchants tend to be businesses such as gambling and tech support, where they can be a high number of customer disputes involved in these kinds of industries. Whatever way you decide to organize your finances, you must make sure you are going to reliable companies and have read all the terms and conditions, so as not to incur too many extra charges.

I’ve signed on as the lead developer, and I couldn’t be more excited. And I need to hire at least one more person whose skills are complementary to mine. I know how to lead large software projects, keep them customer focused, write a ton of code, and flow with ever-changing priorities. Because I come from a shrinkwrap software world, I don’t know a modern web stack in great detail. So the person I need to hire next knows Rails and JQuery like the backs of their hands. Bonus points for Heroku. They are a monster programmer that when pointed in the general direction of a target will seek and destroy it, clearing out any obstacles in the way. For now at least, the team is on-site so I’m only looking for someone in the Seattle area.

If that sounds like you, please send well-thought out answers to the following two questions to michael@chefsteps.com.

  1. Where can I see your work on the web? Give me the URL, tell me what you think is great about it, and let me know exactly what your contributions to the project were if it was developed by more than one person.
  2. Take a look at the existing ChefSteps site, paying special attention to the parts of one course we have up so far. What are the top three features that you think we should work on next?
We are ready to move fast to create this team, so if you think this sounds like an amazing place to work – well, you are right, and if you have the skills, please get in touch ASAP.