The difference between throwback dinner parties and today’s festive gatherings not only lies in, say, keeping your clothes on throughout the numerous courses, but in the birth of technology. With the digital age came inventive opportunities to get rich quick. Okay, maybe the term ‘rich’ is generous, but with an online presence and some skills in the kitchen, strangers may be calling you Betty freaking Crocker in no time…or perhaps Sara Lee since she’s a real person.
Say hello to the new kid on the block, peer-to-peer dining, a concept brought to life by a series of online start-ups and the enthusiastic foodies from all over the world. Online platforms essentially connect chefs looking to host dinner in their own homes with strangers who want a home-cooked meal. Don’t feel like wading through the crowded Whole Foods circa 6pm tonight? Try Feastly, a popular marketplace that allows cooks to advertise their meals, luring eager “feasters” inside their homes via mouth-watering images and competitive prices. These delectable dishes can be found in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, D.C. and other large cities, possibly coming to a residential corner near you.
Similarly, Cookapp has a special place in my heart as the start-up eatery began in Buenos Aires, moving headquarters to NYC only a few months ago. The Argentines most likely generated the idea from the oh so popular closed-door restaurant scene in the city. How stealthy. Cookapp pre-approves private chefs, making them go through a process to show off three main aspects: if they can cook, how their hosting skills may be, and safety and cleanliness habits. Hmm…I can only imagine the interesting situations and, ahem, lawsuits, one could find themselves in after inviting heaps of strangers into their homes to eat their food. General liability insurance has been put in place to cover the hosts. Like Cookapp, EatWith is yet another option in multiple cities throughout the world where chefs must be “EatWith Verified” to pass the cooking test, or else they’ll be chopped.
Yep, you guessed it. Peer-to-peer dining is just like Uber or Airbnb but for home-cooked meals, and the concept is flying off the shelves. Cookening based in Paris, France, is all about forming connections while you eat, making the world smaller one meal at a time. MealSharing can have you booking a seat for short-ribs at a stranger’s home in over 425 countries. Yes, please. MealSharing’s Rachelle B. from San Francisco sheds some light on how she brings back cooking techniques from other countries to share in her kitchen.
Looks like Rachelle may have visited Buenos Aires recently as empanadas are her next dish. A woman after my own heart. These are a few of my favorite things…
These global supper club platforms showcase meal listings, user profiles, bookings, payments, and even dress code and parking so you know what you’re getting into. The basic model for each service is the same, but some marketplaces experience more growing pains than others. On HomeDine, a similar concept born in Tel Aviv but moved to, unsurprisingly, San Francisco, my interest was met with their closing statement: “Well…That was fun! After hundreds of meals all over the world we decided to change course.”
Some call it sharing economy, others collaborative consumption. Strip away the buzz terms and I call it racks on racks on racks. It’s all about the Benjamins, amiright? You no longer need to be Daddy Warbucks to open a restaurant when you can run a micro-business from your home. Simply create something worthwhile that’ll have people coming back for more, filling their stomachs and your pockets. And with a good meal comes a good reputation. The sites encourage reviews because what’s better than the reputation-based quality control system?
Basically, I’m just happy to have more options besides eating at the same places in Buenos Aires and…well, cooking. After living in my apartment for over a year, I turned my oven on for the first time last week (which is nothing to write home about). Sorry, mom! I was craving boxed brownies and immediately became utterly confused after seeing a knob with foreign looking pictures with lines and fans and wavey looking images. So many options! What’s a woman to do? Please. Just call me Paula Deen because she’s the best damn cook Food Network ever saw. Yeah, I said it. The brownies turned out ooey and gooey yet flaky and freaking perfect. If anyone would like to join my dinner party I’m hosting this Friday, just reserve a seat at… JOKE. There’s not enough money in the world. I wouldn’t put the locals or the travelers through that catastrophe. I’ll just stick with eating other people’s food.