A couple years ago, Lisa Sipe and her husband Jim were looking for a way to entertain family visiting for Christmas.
"Everyone loves cooking," she explains. "So we played something similar to 'Chopped.'"
In the popular Food Network show, contestants are presented with a basket of seemingly incompatible ingredients and tasked with transforming them. A while later, one family member—she can't recall who—referenced the family cooking competition, saying, "That could be a cool app."
Though the couple had never designed an app before, they had the skill set to turn the idea into a reality. Jim was a software developer and Lisa worked in marketing and design. Both were vice presidents at Champion Medical Technology—Lisa for marketing and Jim for software development—and had to take a leap of faith to follow their inspiration.
"We had other people hire us to make their dreams come true," she says. Taking on app development forced them to change their perspective. "We decided we needed to do something for ourselves."
So they spent the next two years developing an experiential game that simulates a cooking competition. FoodFu calls for at least four participants—two chefs, two judges, and one emcee (who can double as a chef). The two chefs have 45 minutes to prepare a dish featuring the highlighted ingredient, during which time the emcee "interviews" participants using prompts from the app. After the timer goes off, judges rate the dishes on the use of that ingredient, plating, taste, and creativity. The app tallies the results and the winner gloats.
"Really, the cooking competition shows on TV were the inspiration," Sipe explains. "I've been watching them for years."
Perhaps that's why Lisa says that in the many rounds of FoodFu she's played against her husband, she has won more often than not.
"I love cooking," she says, "so it's really natural for me."
One of her recent winning dishes was a during a cheese battle. While her husband made just one dish, Lisa went above and beyond, serving a main cheese course as well as a Nutella cheesecake.
Though food plays a central role in the app, Lisa says the larger objective is to use an often-isolating device to create human connections.
"We really want people to have fun with the app, but also have a way to bring people together with technology," she says.
Though she can't disclose the full details, Sipe says she and her husband are working on two new apps, a food-related experiential app similar to FoodFu, and a "nontraditional app game."
The FoodFu app is not yet available for purchase—Lisa says they are currently "at the mercy of Apple," which is still approving the app. To become an early adopter, sign up at foodfuapp.com.
UPDATE: Sipe confirmed after press time that the app will be available from the iTunes store sometime during the last week of July.