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Target Quietly Closes Chef’s Catalog and Cooking.com

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Two years ago I reported that Target had purchased online culinary retailers Chef’s Catalog and Cooking.com; apparently the party is over as both sites are being shut down.

I became aware of the site closures in an email from Chef’s Catalog advertising their going out of business sale, which of course caused me to sit up and take notice.

target chefs catalog purchase

Image from 2013 Home World Business Magazine

 

I searched the Target corporate web site for possible press releases that I might have missed, but found nothing. The company made no known public acknowledgement, in neither its most recent earnings statement, nor any other press release.

Google searches turned up a couple of stories from media outlets in the Colorado area where Chef’s Catalog is located. I was also able to find a small mention on the housewares trade publication Home World Business that provided some insight.

According to a letter sent to vendors from Chefs Catalog President Tim Littleton, obtained by Home World Business, Chefs Catalog and Cooking.com will sell the remaining in stock inventory with plans to be “fully out of the business by the end of February 2016.”

The company explained in the email sent to customers, the final day for orders will be January 18th at 3:00PM Mountain Time.

As alluded to above, Target acquired Chefs Catalog and Cooking.com in 2013 in an attempt to build new capabilities and broaden the company’s access to different brands.

Target’s initial response was, as expected with such purchases, peppered with positives and enthusiasm.

“We are excited to bring CHEFS and Cooking.com into the Target family,” says Casey Carl, President, Multichannel and Senior Vice President, Enterprise Strategy at Target. “We know consumers are increasingly looking online for cooking solutions to make their lives easier—from utensils and cookware, to recipes. These strategic transactions provide us a great way to address this growing opportunity and will offer expanded online options for our guests.”

While making no public statements on the closures, Target did respond to the Denver Post on the matter.

“Target’s digital business has strengthened and grown, but as the company’s priorities evolved, Chefs Catalog and Cooking.com no longer aligned with the broader strategy,” said Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman. “Additionally, the results of these businesses did not meet our expectations.”

Clearly there is a disconnect between corporate owner and subsidiary, as Chef’s Catalog president Tim Littleton stated, “I am proud of what we have accomplished over the last two years.”

The cynical side of me assumes that Target put no real effort or resources into the two culinary websites, and if there are “disappointing results” that may be why.



I know that in 2012, the year before the purchase, Cooking.com saw a two percent reduction in sales and that Chef’s Catalog suffered substantial revenue loss after being forced to close for months due to wild fires in Colorado.

It is possible that even without Target coming along and buying them, these two companies may have closed on their own, but it does make one wonder what really happened.

I had a great deal of respect for both online retailers; they employed skilled buyers who selected quality products, and both offered great service. But things changed once under the Target umbrella, evidenced by Chef’s Catalog being involved in a major branded product recall in 2015, something that did not happen when they were an independent company.

An interesting side note is that former Cooking.com partnerships with the Food Network, Calphalon, and Rachael Ray online stores at some point became nullified as well. Calphalon and its online presence is now part of the new monster company Newell Brands, while the Rachel Ray and Food Network stores are “powered by” a web company called Delivery Agent.

The sad truth is that, more often than not, independent companies disappear after being purchased by large corporations. The loss of these two niche retailers means less choice and fewer options for the culinary consumer.

***Update February 9, 2016 – So it appears that all may not be completely lost for Chef’s Catalog. An investment firm has acquired all assets of Chef’s and will attempt to sell them to whomever they are able. It remains to be seen if this means Chef’s Catalog could be reborn – http://kitchenboy.net/blog/gordon-brothers-group-acquires-remnants-chefs-catalog/

***Update September 16, 2016 – I learned from DotWeekly.com that “…several Cooking domain names on the move at corporate domain name provider CSC and the ultra premium domain name Cooking.com has changed ownership from Gordon Brothers Group to Hoffman Media, LLC.

This was not the only premium cooking domain name on the move, it was also Cooking.net and Cooking.org. Several other cooking related domains like Cook.org, Cook.net, eCooking.com, Kitchenware.com and potentially a few more appear to have went with the package deal to Hoffman Media.”

DotWeekly also provided information about Hoffman Media, LLC (HM) – “a privately held, leading special-interest publisher based in Birmingham, Ala. The company specializes in publications targeted to the women’s market and the large base of advertisers who seek a print, online and interactive medium to reach this attractive demographic. In addition to publications, HM has a growing consumer event business and an established ancillary products division.”

An interesting comment from DotWeekly may shed light on Target’s motivation, “…and I’m sure Target cashed out with seven figures just from the domains.”

What does that mean for the old Cooking.com? It is probably as simple as HM buying up domains to redirect more traffic to their own businesses. I would doubt very seriously that Cooking.com will have any resurrection at HM.


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44 Responses to “Target Quietly Closes Chef’s Catalog and Cooking.com”

  1. kitchenboy

    Hello Julia, just wanted to let you know that the current Chef’s Catalog IS NOT the original owners. This an iteration based on the acquisition of Chefs assets by David Sabin and Eric Salus, backed by a large group of individuals and large equity fund groups. While these men have experience in the industry, this is not the company you and many others fell in love with and trusted.

    It remains to be seen whether they can continue the reputation of the former company, maybe yes, maybe no.

    Thanks for reading
    Kitchenboy

  2. Julia casteel

    Wow…what a pleasant surprise in the mail today..a Chefs catalog!!!!! They were the best…i had something in my kitchen from almost every page in the book. Not impressed with the new catalog…but maybe more to come….glad they r back

  3. Judy

    NOOOOOOOOO. This makes me not like Target at ALL! Chef’s was a great catalog, with items that were hard to find and terrific service. I really hope the ChefsCatalog.com explodes and does fantastic!!!!! I was going to see if I could find a stainless steel bowl that fit my over-the-sink- wooden cutting board. I lot the original. Guess not.

  4. Stella Lydon

    I am so upset.The cover for my Chef’s fresh valley onion canister broke.Does anyone know how I can find a replace?

  5. kitchenboy

    Hello Juli, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. The only option left for your gift card, at this point, may be to go into Target and do a gift card exchange. This is a program Target implemented a couple of years ago. However, you may not get all the value of what is left on the card. For instance, if you have $100 on a Chef’s Catalog gift card, Target may only give you $75-85 toward a Target purchase.

    The only way to know for sure is to call their 800# or go into a store.

    Hope this helps
    Kitchenboy

  6. Thomas Lansing

    I have purchased many Calphalon pots and pans from Chef’s Catalog. The reason was because they were cheaper in price than Williams-Sonoma, or Sur La Tabla. Then I found that there was a Calphalon outlet that was only about 4 hours away, and started making my Calphalon purchases there, only to save the shipping charges. My God! $9.00 shipping for a one quart sauce pan and no lid!

    Now that Chef’s is gone, I as a caterer, have gone to using regular commercial pots, pans, and other equipment, yet still wish Chef’s was still around for those special small items not found in the large Restaurant Supply Houses.

  7. Juli Cameron

    I also have a. Chefs catalog gift card I would like to use. How do I do this can target give me one to replace it.

  8. V Mondello

    I got a long slot toaster thru the Chefs catalog. Best toaster I ever experienced. Toasts very evenly. Superior to the long slot from Kitchen Aid which toasts bread burnt on each end no matter where I place the bread. Sending back to K. Aid as we speak.

  9. John Pratt

    I will not be buying from Target because they do not sell the quality cooking products that I would find on Chef’s catalog.

  10. andnowyoudont

    Where can I find the wonderful recipes from the catalogues?? I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find where they’re archived. Please help with, maybe, a link or site???

  11. Rebecca Berger

    I have a chefs catalog gift card I got for xmas and forgot to use it. I see now they are closed but seen u can get a target gift card in place.. anyone know how I can do that? I’d hate to miss out on the money on here. Thanks

  12. Joan Stevens

    I just saw a post on a chefs website that said they are selling their inventory to Tuesday mornings (it was probably from ages ago) and will return in a whole new way. I keep hoping as I was a frequent shopper at Chefscatalog.com and I really miss it. They had excellent customer service and the best merchandise. I think Target bought them to swallow up the competitor. NOt sure if that makes sense as it seems Target wouldn’t have a real impact from a business the size of chefscatalog.com but maybe it was bigger than it seemed – seemed like a neighborhood store with how intimate and friendly they were.
    Are they back? Will they return with a new name? Any word?

  13. Jamie Cole

    I also saw Chef’s advertised on TV. It was on new episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and their sister program, Cook’s Country. I even went back to verify that the episodes were new, not from last year. I haven’t seen the show in the last month or so because I’ve been busy, but it was definitely Chef’s Catalog that was being shown as a provider/sponsor of the programs.

  14. mary lynne simpson

    No one has mentioned mourning for the loss of cooking.com so I will. 🙂 I ordered from Chef’s Catalog a time or two and always loved browsing through them when one came in the mail, but being in my “old gold” years and having a small galley kitchen I could only do so much adding to my kitchen “stuff”. But oh, how I loved having cooking.com as a recipe source. So often when I would search for a recipe, cooking.com would be the one I ended up trying. And I didn’t even realize all this had transpired until I wanted to revisit a recipe that came from cooking.com and discovered that they were gone. The older I get the more I believe that we will finally end up with a relatively small number of huge conglomerate “umbrella” companies who own all the retail businesses in the country and who only care about the bottom line.

    Of course, younger generations growing up now won’t/don’t know or care about how it was before all the merging/buying/acquiring, etc., started and that’s good, I suppose. They won’t have to care that every time they visit a shopping center, no matter where they are in the US, they’ll see the same stores as they have at home.

    Yuck!

  15. Vilma

    Target should have kept its greedy hands off these 2 companies. I’ve bought items from both for many years and was always happy with the purchases. I always enjoyed looking through their catalogues/website, too. Now that Target got involved and closed them down, we, the customers, are the ones who miss out.

  16. Joyce

    I bought items from Chefs Catalog for many years. I had one problem with an item and the response was quick and the item price refunded just as quick. I bought an “expandable” table from them and have never seen it elsewhere. I stopped shopping at Target long ago and will never go back, especially after reading this article. King Arthur Baking has some baking cookware and I found a restaurant supply site called AceMart that has some good deals. AceMart also has some low quality items so you have to shop carefully. Fantes is near me and they sell quality items but can be pricey. Good luck to all the cooks out there and thanks to you “kitchenboy” for keeping us informed.

  17. Molly

    Thanks so much! I loved Chefs Catalog. They carried so many different lines, as well as their own. It was so easy to compare features and prices. I placed a good sized order when they announced the shut down, but I still miss them.
    I wish I had been paying more attention to the TV, but it wasn’t until almost the end of the ad. It said something about trusted and used by professionals and non, then showed the web address. That is all I caught.

  18. kitchenboy

    Molly – Well that is news to me. I know that Tuesday Morning (TM) had bought the rights to the name and all inventory from the Gordon Group in February of this year.

    I have received more comments and emails about this story than just about anything I have ever written.

    The message on the Chef’s Website is a bit vague. The question is whether TM still owns it or has sold the online presence back to the original owners. It is entirely possible that TM will be the money and ownership group but will allow the online presence to appear standalone – maybe even operate as a standalone subsidiary.

    Let me contact TM and see what they have to say about this development. When I hear back from them, I will let you know.

    Thanks for the information.

    Kitchenboy

  19. Molly

    I just saw an “ad” on public television for chefscatalog.com!!?? I went to the website and it seems to say that it is being resurrected. Do you know anything about this? Thanks!

  20. Balazs

    I miss you very much Chefscatalog. Shame on Target. From where can i buy kitchenware?

  21. Kathleen Quinn-Brauer

    I was wondering where my catalogs from Chef’s were…now i know. Im sick about it

    always looked forward to buying much in the fall and winter….I hate change…i have

    no idea where i will go now for my kitchen products.

  22. Shirley Chase

    I loved this catalog and purchased many items there. I was recently trying to replace my Fresh Valley Farms garlic canister that I purchased through Chefs and couldn’t find them either. Did it see its demise with Chefs Catalog. No news there either. Was the disappearance circumstantial or related? Or is there still a Fresh Valley Farms company still out there?

  23. J dunning

    I have been waiting awhile for new catalog . I loved Chefs catalog for decades. Great service and no shipping charges. Can’t beat that. Please get them back. What’s good should be available to the good people of family homes. Please get this message into the right hands. Jackie –Naples, FL 34113

  24. kitchenboy

    Hi, yeah a lot of people are frustrated about the Chef’s Catalog situation.

    The only links I can find that may help you are this https://contactus.target.com/ and this generic customer service number 1 (800) 440-0680

    If they don’t cooperate about converting the gift cards, which they should, try one of my tactics which is social media shaming. It gets their attention real fast.

    All the best and thanks for reading
    Kitchenboy

  25. Jae

    I was so mad when I saw the site had closed. I have/had gift cards from this site and I only had them for a few months before it closed down. Is there a number to call because I want to trade them in for Target gift cards.

  26. Joyce K

    I have loved, and bought from, Chef’s Catalog for 20+ years. I was never disappointed in any item that I purchased. Everything was always exceptional quality. Great customer service. I miss Chef’s Catalog.

  27. Barbara Hoffmann

    This message is for Susan Haviland…….I have several sets of Chefs bistro serving pieces. Oversized spoon, slotted spoon and fork

    .

  28. Paula ZAJAC

    I have hung on to the only Chefs catalog that I ever saw, finding it discarded at the post office. It was such a treasure that I decided to hang onto it for future purchases. Now whenI am finally ready to invest I find out what Target did. I will never darken their doors again.
    Apparently there are fewer and fewer places where a truly discriminating shopper can go. But oh, to find that rare product that fulfills all of our needs, so that it lasts a lifetime and can be passed on. And it does not endanger us with mysterious chemicals.

  29. Susan Haviland

    What a terrible thing to loose Chef’s Catalog and shame on you Target— you pulled a fast one on us dedicated Chef’s customers. I was in the processing of acquiring additional sizes, accessories and serving pieces to products that I had acquired from Chef’s. Presently I need to replace Chef’s items that were stolen by a family member. I also want to buy the serving pieces to my Chef’s Bistro silverware. Where do we now shop online? (I’m unable to shop around at brick & motor stores.)

    Very sad & mad in Ohio,
    Susan Haviland (Greater Cleveland)

  30. Barbara Ruether

    What a loss to us all. what a loss for creativity and good service. What a loss for the over one hundred employees who served us well.

    I hope that the rumor of someone taking a move to bring Chef’s back is true. Please let us know ASAP so we can join you.
    Barbara Ruether
    New York City

  31. KareninStLouis

    I, too, was saddened and caught off-guard by the unexpected closing of Chef’s Catalog. It was a great resource over the years—KitchenAid mixers, cooking tools, and most recently the Sol Ceraforce line of cookware. It included the only 14″ frying pan of its kind (PFOA and PTFE free nonstick) that I could find. So disappointed. So today, while I was making a giant omelette once again in my 14-inch pan, I decided to Google why this great company closed. Beyond disappointed that apparently a buyer was not even sought. So sad. Thank you for the information, insight, and commentary.

  32. kitchenboy

    @Rhuelyn, I don’t know what to tell you about this. I would contact Target customer service and explain the situation to them. Hopefully you still have the original order numbers and that they will be able to track it that way. My assumption is that while you may be able to get a Target gift card for the amount of the product not delivered, it seems unlikely you will get the product you ordered. Again though, having the order numbers and receipts will help.

    Sorry this happened to you and I wish you the best of luck getting it resolved.
    Kitchenboy

  33. Rhuelyn T

    I ordered three things when they are having the sales before they closed. I received two of my orders but not the third one. I have no idea how to contact them, tried their 1-800 number and it’s not working 😕. I know the website says if you have a gift card call An 1-800 number which will exchange it to a Target gift card but what is it to do if you never get the product you ordered?

  34. Dave Crighton

    Internal scuttlebutt is that Gordon Brothers has sold the Chefs intellectual property to “Tuesday Morning” and the Chefs product designer has been brought on board. Perhaps we’ll be seeing Chefs branded items on Tuesday Morning’s shelves before long.

  35. Joe Witinski

    Poor Leadership and Council on Target’s Part.

    It is depressing to know many corporate heads fail to get involved with their subsidiaries and acknowledge what is really occurring. Chef’s loss was only 2% due the Colorado’s Wild Fire, it is impressive to see a company rebound and still hold sales near normal during a natural disaster and in addition to the overall poor economic growth in consumer spending of that time. I Believe Target’s Big Whigs need to go back to School and recognize the poor judgement they displayed in their decision to close Chef’s.

    Target is losing it’s cool very fast. With them eliminating it’s good reliable and trusted brands such as Chef’s, Target will very soon be seen as JUST ANOTHER WALMART.

    The decisions to just look out for shareholder’s will lead to loss of quality overall and poor customer experiences. Target is failing to realize that the customer’s view and desires are what run the company NOT the shareholders in their case.

  36. kitchenboy

    Beverly (and everyone interested), I just received some information about an online only kitchen retailer called Chef’s Resource (http://www.chefsresource.com/). They were awarded the industry’s highest honor, the Global Innovation Award (gia), and will be recognized at the International Home + Housewares Show in March, 2016.

    A quick look around the site gives me the impression that these folks have a good eye for quality products.

  37. Beverly

    I loved Chef’s catalog and was shocked that they shut down. I need another specialized kitchen store. Does anyone know of another?

  38. Fran Bankes

    I hate that the Chef’s catalog is closed! I bought a lot of the great kitchen products from them for twenty years. Target sells garbage and I will never buy from them, they stink ! I noticed that Amazon sells All Clad and other good quality products, but now I will have to really shop around. We will miss Chef’s Catalog😪

  39. Dawn

    I’m surprised this has not been bigger in the media, given that approximately 180 employees lost their jobs, under the direct watch of Target. Truly a sad time for employees and consumers of Chefs Catalog. Wish it wasn’t too late for someone or the previous owners to take it over. But you’re right, Target had no interest in doing anything positive, so certainly wouldn’t allow that.

    Shame on Target.

  40. kitchenboy

    Hello Dawn, I agree, Chef’s was a great place to shop; excellent buyers and service you could trust.

    To my knowledge, Target made no effort to sell them off. They poached whatever internal features they could from Chef’s and Cooking.com, then shut them down citing “disappointing” performance.

    Initially I felt like there was a possibility to make something special, but alas it wasn’t to be. The cynic in me now feels like there was never any intention within Target to do anything positive.

    If a handful of journalists in Colorado hadn’t asked them directly about the closing, I assume Target would have said absolutely nothing. Even there, my guess is that the CEO of Chef’s Catalog is the one who alerted local journalists and released the internal letter to the trade magazine.

    Dancing with the devil has its risks and both of these online retailers paid the ultimate price.

    Thanks for reading

    Kitchenboy

  41. Dawn

    It is sad to have an innovative company, full of wonderfully designed products disappear. I have always had excellent service and quality from Chefs Catalog. If purchased with good intentions, Target could have made this a more successful company. My question is, did Target even attempt to sell Chefs off, or just decide to let it die, eliminating competition. Target will now be the last place I go for kitchen goods.

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