As a platform that offers direct access to renowned cookbooks throughout the globe, ckbk is the Spotify of the culinary world! We caught up with co-founder and CEO, Matthew Cockerill to find out more.
I’m a former molecular biologist and come from a background of science publishing. I co-founded a startup which changed how scientists communicate the results of their work with an open access model. This model is now widespread.
The company was acquired by a science publisher (Springer Nature), which helped to ensure that open access became mainstream. I soon realized there were other areas of publishing which were ripe for further digital disruption, too.
My brother is a chef and food stylist (you might have seen his work on Peaky Blinders), and I’m a keen amateur cook. It struck me that by bringing together the best cookbooks and food writers from every culture and culinary speciality, via an app, we could offer something that would appeal to both home cooks and professionals.
In sectors such as music and film, digital models let us discover new things and dip in and out of a wide range of content, rather than being limited to a few purchases. Skilled curators combined with smart algorithms make it easy to discover new artists and films that we like.
It was strange to me that nothing similar existed in the world of food. Certainly, there’s a lot of material out there on the net, but it’s chaotic and scattered across ad-dominated websites. What if we could bring together the best cookbooks in one easy-to-use app?
We started out by asking hundreds of chefs and authors to name their favorite cookbooks. We gathered this into the 1000 Cookbooks ranking and started approaching publishers and authors to license these books.
Many of the books were out of print and it took lots of digging to get authors and publishers on board. But when we announced ckbk in 2018, 5,000 people signed up for the wait list literally overnight, and our Kickstarter campaign went on to achieve double its target.
We launched the subscription service commercially in March 2019, and since then people have recognized that for not much more than the cost of a couple of cookbooks a year, you can have access to this huge library of more than 600. This is continuing to grow, with new cookbooks added every week.
A key differentiator is that we’re completely publisher neutral. We bring together the best content from many different sources – publishers, individual authors, and chefs keen to share their recipes with an international audience – and that is something only we do.
Our licensing partners come from all over the world and we cover every area of cooking. Many users ask us why no one had done it before, but it took a lot of work to make it a reality!
As with companies like Spotify, a big challenge is catering for each user’s individual tastes and interests. We’ve tried to incorporate personalization and recommendations, so everyone can find things that are relevant, but also make serendipitous discoveries.
Depending on a user’s interests, they might choose to try out a few things from a wide range of international cuisines, or alternatively do a deep dive into a specialist topic such as cooking with chocolate, for example.
It can be used on your phone, tablet, or web browser. You might get started by searching for a recipe based on the contents of your fridge, or for a particular dish that you want to make. Search filters make it easy to narrow down the results – if you want to restrict to gluten-free, vegan, or Italian dishes, for example.
All the books are presented in a consistent way, so you can create collections (think ‘recipe playlists’), share reviews or add private notes.
When we add a cookbook, we always make the full content available, unlike other sites which offer only a few recipes for marketing purposes. When selecting books, we listen to our users and aim for a balanced mix including timeless classics, critically acclaimed award-winners, and best-sellers.
We work with our licensing partners to stay on top of trends, for example, adding cookbooks for sous-vide, air-fryer, and Instant Pot cooking.
Absolutely. It’s really rewarding to develop culinary skills and delve deeper into areas which interest you. One of our goals is to encourage people to discover how rewarding cooking can be.
These days, cooking from scratch isn’t something you have to do, it's something you choose to do, and ckbk helps to make cooking interesting dishes for yourself, your friends, and family much more enjoyable and satisfying.
ckbk is evolving to be the go-to place on your phone’s home screen for everything to do with food and cooking. The app is going to be even more personalized, so you can find daily recipe inspiration, and by working with specialist suppliers as well as supermarkets, we’ll make it easy to source the exact ingredients you need – even for unusual dishes.
We’re going to add more video tutorials from partners such as Le Cordon Bleu, to help users hone their technical skills, and just as Netflix now makes its own original content, ckbk is working with chefs and authors to add exclusive material.