Sydney-based online start-up Eatlove has lured celebrity chefs Kylie Kwong, Matt Moran, Neil Perry and others to its recipe website, having secured financial backing from Rupert Murdoch’s nephew.

Eatlove, led by chief executive Mark Ashbridge, is a self-described “destination where food lovers can eat, cook and shop with inspiring chefs”. In essence, it encourages top Australian chefs to share their favourite recipes and food knowledge directly with food enthusiasts online. Earlier this year, it was named Best Publisher at the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association Awards.

The business has announced a second partnership with food publisher Lantern, having already secured a deal with Murdoch Books, acquired by Allen & Unwin last year. Ashbridge is financially backed by Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Matt Handbury, who sold Murdoch Books to Allen & Unwin.

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Eatlove says its partnership with Lantern, which takes effect in May, will increase the number of chef-authors to 50. Lantern, which is an imprint of Penguin Books, specialises in publishing high-quality illustrated books with a focus on food, travel, gardening, lifestyle, interior design and art. It will bring celebrity chefs such as Kwong, Maggie Beer, Manu Feildel, Tobie Puttock, Moran, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan to Eatlove.

Eatlove is seeking to raise about half a million dollars to fund the second iteration of the website and will consider globalising the content by introducing more international chefs.

Ashbridge, whose background is in music and publishing, says he came up with the Eatlove concept while working at Murdoch Books, where he served as head of digital. “My background is music, and I noticed quite a lot of correlation between the two industries. Music is undergoing quite a lot through disruption,” he said. “With food, the same thing is happening. The physical books are still selling well but getting harder to sell, and a lot of consumers are going online for their content.

“At the same time, [Murdoch Books asked me to] start developing a concept with food exclusively online … It was about challenging the status quo.  I wanted to do it in a way that was premium, and I also wanted to do it in a way that differentiates itself from recipe databases. It’s way more kind of curational and way more kind of celebrity or expert-orientated.

Ashbridge, who left Murdoch Books to set up Eatlove as a standalone business, says the business hinged on the relationships with publishers. “It was two steps really: developing and showcasing the website to the publisher, who develops and owns the [chefs’] content, and working very close with the chefs. What Eatlove should grow to be is something of a marketing channel for them,” he said.

*This article was first published at Startup Smart

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Peter Fray
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