Truffle Shuffle After Shark Tank: We Caught Up With One Of The Founders

Truffle Shuffle is the brainchild of Tyler Vorce and Jason McKinney — two chefs at the French Laundry looking for a way to unite their culinary passions with making professional cooking accessible to the masses. The business initially started as an app allowing chefs to order truffles straight from hunters, thus cutting out the expensive middleman. After being inspired by Jason's honeymoon in 2019 and a pursuit to make the company more profitable, Vorce and McKinney moved to sell product kits that included items like truffles and Balinese salt, which landed the company a deal with Whole Foods Market.

In March 2020, following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company pivoted toward online cooking classes that would allow people to learn how to cook with truffles while maintaining social distancing requirements. It caused the company to sell out of its truffles — and find new opportunities on national television. After "Shark Tank," the company has seen massive growth since its appearance on the show. Here is what the crew at Truffle Shuffle has been up to since their time on "Shark Tank."

What Shark Tank was actually like

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of Shark Tank. For Tyler Vorce and Jason McKinney, the preparation steps clearly had their pay-off, but could only prepare them for so much of what it was like going on the show. When asked what the experience was like in a few words, McKinney said, "Absolutely nerve-wracking." He went on to explain that reading through the script, rehearsing the pitch, and preparing for investor questions couldn't prepare him for the premise of the show: Entrepreneurs getting their ideas picked apart on television — and in front of "10 million people" watching the show from their homes.

"It's the understanding that you're taking your life's work, putting it on the table, and basically putting it on the chopping block for people to just kind of hack at it and pick everything apart," McKinney explained. He described that being on "Shark Tank" made him very "acutely aware of his surroundings" in a way that rehearsing a pitch couldn't.

Truffle Shuffle on Shark Tank

This new venture into virtual cooking classes kickstarted the company's audition on "Shark Tank." After briefly explaining their company and their background, Truffle Shuffle made their pitch to the sharks. The company sought a $500,000 investment for a 5% stake after reportedly earning $1.4 million in sales at the time of their audition. The founders noted that 84% of its income came from the cooking classes ($95 to $125 each, including all the items needed to make the meal), with a 60% profit margin.

The shark's main concern with the brand was initially its net profit, around $8,000, and its limited cash flow. Several investors also critiqued the brand's two separate product lines, including the inventory-heavy truffle goods and less than 20% margins on the cooking classes. While some sharks, like Lori Grenier and Daymond John, backed out, others were intrigued by the shift and malleability of the company following COVID-19.

Finding an investment

One investor, Robert Herajvec, was particularly interested in the company's cooking classes. "You've got magic going on, baby," Herajvec said. "And that magic is in these classes. People are looking for experiences." He then suggested the brand open up several different classes for a flat membership fee and pre-record sessions for customers to watch and re-watch. Herajvec initially went in with a $500,000 investment for a 20% stake and was counter-offered by "Mr. Wonderful," Kevin O'Leary, who proposed a $500,000 loan at 9.5% interest for a 25% stake in the company.

From there, founders Tyler Vorce and Jason McKinney requested a $250,000 investment at a 7% stake from Mark Cuban and Robert Herajvec. After some counteroffers, Truffle Shuffle received a $501,000 investment for an 18% stake from investor Mark Cuban. "Mark was our target shark going in," Vorce explained after the team left the stage, "He has a strong technology background, and we think we have a solid game plan ahead of us."

Truffle Shuffle after Shark Tank

Truffle Shuffle has seen massive success since appearing on "Shark Tank." Since the episode aired, Jason McKinney noted that original investor Mark Cuban re-invested $400,000 at a $60 million valuation. The company also saw a "close to 1,600%" growth per McKinney, which has manifested in both their cooking class memberships, as well as the product line.

At its inception, Truffle Shuffle only employed three people. Now, its staff has grown to 26 team members with a shared mission of bringing the joy of cooking (and truffles) into people's homes. Jason McKinney also credits the growth of Truffle Shuffle to a loyal customer base — many of which appeared on Truffle Shuffle's "Shark Tank" episode in support of the brand.

McKinney shares that some of the most rewarding parts of the business have been getting to help people learn to cook chef-quality meals from the comfort of their own homes. He notes that these success stories have included customers hungry for learning saying "Hey, this is awesome," to others saying "Hey, my marriage is on the rocks, and we started cooking with you guys, and it's completely changed a lot."

Whats next for Truffle Shuffle?

Truffle Shuffle is still in business and offering new, innovative cooking class experiences to help customers learn more techniques from world-class chefs. Truffle Shuffle has received some of its greatest attention from chefs like Tucker Ricchico, winner of Gordon Ramsey's "Next Level Chef." Jason McKinney is even designing a course to teach individuals about how to start their own businesses.

On August 21, Truffle Shuffle plans to release its membership program; it already has 500 pre-sales for multi-year memberships and a waitlist of over 100,000 people. "It will be [the] go-to source to learn anything that you want," McKinney explains. "You can learn to cook and be part of an online community that does not exist anywhere else." The premium membership gives access to courses, including knife skills, pasta-making, and live classes. Members receive discount codes for the ingredient boxes or can opt for the shopping list instead. This program is available starting at $29 a month or $250 annually.

Following the membership program, Truffle Shuffle will unlock a protege series where customers can "learn how to make sauces like Julia Child" in five sessions or "cook the best Wagyu in the world" in four. "It's like bringing that cooking school experience online and being able to do it from the comfort of your home," McKinney shares.

Advice for entrepreneurs

It's safe to say that national television can change a lot about people — including entrepreneurs. Jason McKinney's advice (besides taking his class, once it becomes available on Truffle Shuffle) for individuals looking to go on an investment show like "Shark Tank" is to really consider why it's worth doing. "When you go on "Shark Tank," who are you going on 'Shark Tank" for?' He poses. "An area I see a lot of people having trouble with is that they have these prior investors that have invested a certain rate, and they don't want the sharks to get a better deal because of their ego and yada yada yada yada, but it's like you're gonna go on 'Shark Tank' for your kids, you're gonna take for your family, right? You're going on 'Shark Tank' to be a part of proving that the American Dream is still alive."

McKinney also advises individuals to go on the show "in a way that you make the people that have been supported you really proud." When he and Tyler first went on the show, McKinney notes that their number one mission was "to make [our] moms proud" — as well as their loyal and growing fan base of at-home chefs.