Eat With, a new concept in upmarket dining
A couple of weeks ago the BBC ran a story about the growing trend in Paris for chefs – all 3,000 of them evidently – to serve their dining public dinner at home. “The Airbnb” of the restaurant world it described these upstarts – no prizes for guessing what restaurants think of this latest foodie phenomenon – but it did leave out one crucial point. Paris is just one tiny part of it. At home dining is officially big in London, New York and Barcelona and getting bigger, and Eat With occupies the very top of the pile.
Founded by Guy Michlin and Shemer Schwarz after Michlin experienced his first ’at home’ dining experience with a family in Crete, the project has been a phenomenal success paving the way for food lovers to experience the world – and the cornucopia of great eats within it – in an entirely new way although the guts of the concept has been around for generations in places like Cuba where a tradition of paladars has been long-established. These privately-owned, family-run, restaurants usually run out of a somebody’s dining room at home were legalised in the 1990s as a means for visitors to the island to get a taste of real Cuban home-cooking and they’ve gone from strength to strength paving the way for company’s like Eat With to launch themselves onto the world. Its success has been so widespread that even actual chefs are jumping onto the bandwagon doing away with the need for the formal surrounds of a restaurant hosting their own Eat With events at home. Fastforward to 2015 and like Airnbb it’s fast becoming one of the more exciting ways to experience a city, or country, albeit in terms of its culinary landscape. And, with per-head prices starting from as little as €25 it’s no wonder the restaurants are reeling.
Log onto Barcelona and you’ll find literally hundreds of food experiences ranging from secret tours of the Boqueria to the Great British Tea and just about anything you can think of in between. On Friday 13th November the big event will be a cook-off between up-and-coming young chef Hector Ignacio (previously at Bras, Celler de Can Roca, Mugaritz, Nerua, Ryugin, Kichisen and who, coincidentally was chef in residence at a project I run in the Fez medina – Chefs in Residence at www.rtaurantnumero7.com – last February, so I can attest to the creative brilliance of his cooking) and Johann Wald, a local host.
What makes it such a breath of fresh air is that not only do you get a home or chef-cooked meal for a fraction of the price you would in many decent restaurants, you also get to nosey around someone’s home and make new pals into the bargain. It’s a whole new approach to dining out yet one that’s reassuringly familiar tapping back in to the simple and convivial art of breaking bread together. Something that more po-faced fine dining establishments seem to have forgotten about.
All chefs and home cooks are carefully vetted by Eat With, so all you have to do as a prospective diner is create an account on the website (free) and provide payment information using a credit card, which is finalised and taken from your account only when a host confirms your booking via email. If you need to cancel, you’ll receive a full refund providing you do it within 48 hours of the booking start time. Eat With charges a 15% service fee on top of the bill, but it’s all completely transparent and extras only appear in the shape of wine or service.
So, while AirB&B’s own foray into pillow-to-plate may not have been entirely successful, Eat With doesn’t show any signs of slowing. On the contrary, as diners get braver about what and where they eat, it’s only likely to become and bigger, bolder, more varied and ultimately more rewarding way to dine.
Top 5 Picks Eat With Barcelona
· Hector vs Johann, €50 for a new-wave take on Mediterranean cooking
· A Journey Through Catalan Cuisine with Eva and Olga, €40 for a taste of more traditional Catalan cooking
· Catalan Fisherman’s Cuisine, €40 for seafood lovers
· Bespoke Dining with a Michelin Starred Chef, €75 for informal fine dining
· Marta’s Famous Paella Cooking Class, €35 for hands-on action