On a recent weekend a group of 12 strangers gathered around a table in Carroll Gardens to break bread. In Bushwick, a Latin American brunch and a summer tapas party each brought non-familiars together for food and reveling. Over yonder in the West Village, a former Breads Bakery pastry chef instructed another dozen people who’d just met on the art of baking challah — EatWith had successfully landed in NYC.
The new “community marketplace” EatWith is opening doors around the globe and inviting diners across the threshold into what their website refers to as “the uncharted territories of the city’s most delicious homes.” The founders’ aim is to provide opportunities for meaningful dining experiences and community-building worldwide.
EatWith’s story begins on a Grecian holiday at the dawn of 2012. After consecutive disappointing tourist-trap-filled days, Guy Michlin and his wife followed through on a friend-of-a-friend connection and rejoiced to receive a dinner invitation from the acquaintance, a family named Papadakis, who welcomed them into their suburban home and served them traditional regional food. Upon their return to Tel Aviv, the couple realized that the dinner was the highlight of their trip. Lights went on in Michlin’s mind as he considered the possibilities for rescuing travelers from empty experience. EatWith was conceived.
Like a match.com just for meals, the goal is to bring people together, in this case people-person home chefs with travelers and locals looking for novel and authentic dining experiences. It goes like this: enterprising hosts create their menus, providing a description and a fair charge for the meal, EatWith then posts the details on its website and experience-seeking diners can then peruse them all and sign up; event prices hover around $35 per person from which EatWith receives a small cut. The fast-growing community now has hubs in Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Madrid and most recently New York City, with satellites from Paris, Amsterdam and Rome to Rio, Sao Paolo and L.A. Since his return from Greece, Michlin has raised more than a million dollars toward this (ad)venture as hosts and prospective diners clamor for more.
To date, according to the group’s New York marketing director, Naama Shefi, EatWith has received more than 1,000 applications right off the bat from people eager to become hosts. Another tactic they take is to reach out to all the cooks they and their friends and their friend of friends know to see who’s game, the criteria being interesting food from diverse backgrounds. EatWith then vets and verifies all hosts and provides insurance should something go awry.
They’re also vigilant to ensure all involved enjoy themselves, and to judge by the success of New York’s August launch, they are onto something. Picture yourself at a backyard supper club in Red Hook, seated among soon-to-be friends, sharing an inspired three-course vegetarian spread; at a Bushwick tapas party; a Williamsburg Japanese food art event; or at a home on the Lower East Side enjoying a Middle Eastern brunch, the midday feasting topped off with malabi (a milk-based pudding made from orchid root powder and rosewater) for dessert.
After a recent brunch at the home of a New York architect, deejay and artist from Puerto Rico, one diner proclaimed, “just from sitting around table with them, I fell in love with the culture and am ready to get on a plane to Puerto Rico!”
One of many rich culinary traditions now available at a home near you.