Connecting over a good meal has been a cornerstone of Thumbtack culture since its founding when CEO Marco Zappacosta was the team’s first in-house “chef.” Today, Thumbtack’s culinary team has seven members who, as executive sous chef April Word puts it, focus on nourishing people—their bodies, of course, but also their minds and spirits.
At Thumbtack, April partners with executive chef Aubrey Saltus to plan weekly menus, create connections with local vendors and oversee the creation of three delicious meals a day for employees.
She joined Thumbtack from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, where she honed her culinary chops. We asked April to share how growing up in San Francisco framed her appreciation of local, seasonal food, how the culinary team plans weekly menus to offer a range of experiences, and what her future dreams for the team look like.
What do you do at Thumbtack?
I’m an executive sous chef in our culinary department and I oversee breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Thumbtack.
You’re a Bay Area native—tell us more.
I grew up in San Francisco in the Mission District—way before its current incarnation—and I spent my summers on a farm in northern Humboldt County close to the Oregon border. I feel it was important to grow up as an inner-city kid and then have this totally other perspective from spending my summers on a farm and appreciating seasonality. Like, what do you do with a harvest of 25 pounds of blackberries? You make jam, you make pie, you make cobbler, you make ice cream. So with my work here, I think, “How do we use ingredients when they’re in season and bring out the best in them?”
You worked as a cook at the incredible Chez Panisse. How has that influenced your work today?
At Chez Panisse, I deepened my love of using fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients. I think we have an obligation to support local agriculture for the sake of the local environment and economy and also for the health, nutrition, and benefit of our employees here. We use the best possible ingredients that we can get and work very closely with local farmers and suppliers.
What do you love about working at Thumbtack?
Something that brings me real joy is when people come up and comment on our food, saying, “That was better than how my mom makes it!” or “That reminds me of that time when I traveled and that’s exactly how it tasted!” I love when the food we cook resonates with people.
How do you pick the weekly menu?
We try to provide a range of culinary experiences over the course of the week and draw on influences from all over the globe. We are definitely grounded in “California” cuisine but every week we branch out and take inspiration from different cultures, like Thai, Italian, Indian, and Moroccan. We’re also mindful about featuring different proteins and vegetables every day. To give you an example of one of our meals this week, we’re having overnight braised lamb shoulder, cumin roasted eggplant with walnuts and dates, and couscous with preserved lemon.
What’s next for the culinary team?
Our biggest one is to continue scaling with grace and quality. As the company continues to grow, we want to hold on to the heart of the food that we’re making. We don’t want to ever feel like we’re making institutional food. We want it to feel like home-cooked food. And in the Thumbtack kitchen, we want to focus on nourishing people. Of course, literally, in terms of nourishing their bodies, but also in a bigger role of nurturing their spirits and their minds.
I really value when Jonathan [Swanson, one of our founders] talks about the role we play in supporting people’s days. If somebody gets to eat their favorite thing for lunch, they’re going to be jazzed, even if they had a meeting that didn’t go well. They’re going to be happy because their belly’s happy and it gave them something to laugh or talk about. That in turn will make them go home to be a better spouse or parent or friend. When you have these little things that buoy your day, it sends you out into the world beyond your work as a more fulfilled person.
Want to join the Thumbtack team? We’re hiring! Check out our open roles here.