When was the last time, on vacation, you said ” I want to eat what the locals eat” only to follow the advice of some TripAdvisor review; ending up at a restaurant surrounded by other tourists, spending more money than you should’ve and thinking “hmmm….I doubt the local Croatians eat Iberian ham so why is it on the menu?”. I have fabulous news that will benefit both vacationers and at-home diners! Through our travels we’ve discovered a couple alternatives to the traditional meal out.
Chef Hosted Dinners
Chris and I were introduce to eatwith.com when we were in Barcelona, Spain. This is a service that syncs travelers (and locals) up with local chefs who host a dinner for you at their home. A few of the benefits:
- Value-You get a home cooked meal for a reasonable price.
- Insightful– You end up with worthwhile suggestions from the local chef: best places to eat, the local cuisine must-trys, treasures off the beaten path etc. The chef will usually dine with you.
- Social– Many times you’ll end up eating with other foreigners (from all over the world) who have fascinating travel stories and tips to share. After a few glasses of wine, contact info is swapped and you have a new friend in Berlin, Germany!
- Cultural– Inevitably speaking to other foreign (or local) diners who have a different government, education system, work issues etc add a global perspective that keeps conversation interesting and broadens one’s worldly view. Another cultural benefit is that you can see inside a local’s home. Chris and I love that!
- Taste– These chefs put their heart and sole into their meals. Since they usually only host one group they are invested to making their guests happy. They are screened by an eatwith.com local rep so not just anyone can be a chef.
In Barcelona, Chris and I ate a 6 course meal for $60 per person (wine included) at a chef’s house who worked at a two-star Michelin restaurant. To eat this caliber of a meal in a Michelin restaurant would have cost 4 times more than that. The reason it ends up being more economical (among many reasons) is because the chefs don’t have to purchase liquor licenses or pay staff. This chef in particular has found it so rewarding that he has turned it into a full time business.
In Zadar, Croatia we had dinner with Irena who hosted a beautiful meal for us and two Londoners. We came away with, not only a full belly , but great advice on restaurants to check out and tourist attractions.
I see this type of experience as a win-win for the diner and the chef. AirBNB is inching into this space as well; connecting people for various activities.
Another, alternative to the traditional restaurant is private chef-hosted events. Websites like: labelleassiette.fr Kitchit.com and Kitchensurfing.com are vetting chefs; providing a stream-lined business getting chefs to come into your home and whip up a delicious meal and clean up (!!) while you are entertained and socialize with your friends. Clients can filter on cuisine preference, price or other criteria in the chef’s profile empowering you to create your ideal evening (or afternoon).
This may sound like a hoity toity alternative, and yes, you can organize a full on elaborate event through these sites if you choose, but the idea is to make it accessible and affordable for the average Friday date night as well. Sure, there are extra costs in comparison to going to a restaurant but I see that extra expense going toward the experience of hosting a knowledgeable chef in one’s home.
I love this concept because, for as much as I adore entertaining, I rarely can focus on my friends until dessert is served. I’m too preoccupied with making sure every dish has its finishing touches and constantly running back to the kitchen.
Another bonus! More and more people are staying in furnished apartments through AirBNB and VRBO which frequently have kitchens; making this experience available on the road. Granted, it is more culturally stimulating to go out or do an eatwith.com when traveling but Chris and I decided to try it when we had friends come visit us in Brač, Croatia.
*I have one more alternative foodie dining experience that deserves its own post. I need to try it a couple more times before I report back! Stay tuned!