The following ten startups are all, in one way or another, transforming the way we relate to food here in the city, and beyond. This is not a ranking, but a list, alphabetically by company name:
Giftly is one of three on this list that are disrupting the gift card market, by providing personalized online gift certificates to local businesses, including coffee shops and restaurants. It's helping to eliminate those ten billion pieces of non-biodegradable plastic we have been wasting each year.
The company that has been reinventing textbook has broadened to consumer titles with ProChef on the iPad, with a suite of interactive features like shared notes and highlighting, interactive quizzes and glossaries that suggest that cookbooks will never be the same.
When it comes to throwing dinner parties, like at the holidays, imagine for a moment if you could have a top-tier chef move into your kitchen and handle the whole event for you – from shopping to cooking to presentation and cleanup? Meet Kitchit.
The idea behind this startup is to let you order dinner from a top chef, who is committed to using locally grown, sustainable, seasonal ingredients to turn out high-quality, nutritious meals delivered right to your door at a total cost around $20 per person per meal.
This service organizes intimate dinner parties for people with shared interests to meet up at local venues and talk around themes ranging from nonprofits to photography, wine tasting, hiking and running. Especially nice for people new to the city, as a way to connect with others with similar interests.
Rice Paper Scissors
In order to find out where they will next break out their signature little red stools and spontaneously start serving their savory dishes in the Vietnamese tradition of pop-up cafes, you'll have to follow them on Twitter or plug into one of the local foodie blogs in the know. When it comes to grassroots innovation in San Francisco, there's no better example than a startup that has no investors, angels, nor even a fixed address.
The founders of Wired Magazine have moved on to open a factory on the shores of San Francisco Bay to produce premium chocolate. The company refuses to buy its beans from countries that harvest them with slave labor, insisting rather on “ethical sourcing” that helps enable Third World farmers to become premium producers based on the principles of Fair Trade.
It is focused on bringing online personalized gift certificates to acclaimed restaurants, including Aziza, Flour + Water, La Folie, Quince and Saison in the city, plus some 400 elsewhere around the country.
Another gift-card disrupter, this little company has figured out how to hand choice back to the recipient in the form of a customied designed little book or catalogue with 14 different gifts, including food and wine products.
The new way to order your company lunch, painlessly, including from many highly rated, extremely popular restaurants that otherwise do not deliver food at all.
(Only companies that I have been able to profile over the past year are included on this list, so apologies to the many other deserving candidates not appearing here. Feel free to contact 7x7.com, so we can get to know you better in 2012. – D.W.)