Kevin Yu was trying to whip together a three-course Valentine’s Day meal when things went awry.

“It was not edible by any means,” he said, laughing.

A former global marketing manager for Blizzard Entertainment, Yu took that kitchen disaster and launched an app named SideChef. He saw the opportunity to take what he learned from gaming and apply it to cooking.

SideChef uses gamification to give users a learning curve to improve their skills in the kitchen. The interactive app offers step-by-step instructions on how to cook a meal, from different cuisines to specialty dishes. Its model was designed to emulate how people rely on GPS when driving, said founder and Chief Executive Yu.

“If you want to get to a certain place, GPS not only tells you what to do and when to do it, it gives you the confidence that you’ll get there,” he said.

The Santa Monica startup has raised a little under $1 million in seed funding, much of which comes from Chinese investors. The iOS app saw more than 70,000 downloads in the first month of its launch, and an Android version is set to debut within weeks.

Yu said he sees the potential for SideChef to work with grocery delivery services to encourage cooking at home. And as smart homes continue to gain traction, SideChef might actually be by your side one day, preheating your oven and letting you know that your fridge is running low on eggs.

“We’re building Yelp for eating in,” he said.

Staff reporter Melissah Yang can be reached at MYang@labusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @MelissahYang for the latest in L.A. tech news.

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