The best meals are shared over a noisy table. The joy of eating together can never be overrated. Foodie get-togethers let you celebrate a regional cuisine, while you are fussed over by a talented chef and host.
This is about a homely space for a foodie, to meet interesting, like-minded people as they tuck into a sumptuous Bohri thaal or try some peppery Chettinad chicken with malabar parottas.
Facebook has helped 'foodie communities', and the baton to finding good homely meals is passed on now to Whatsapp and Instagram of course, where the food photos and 'stories' are serious business.
This meet-up space really opened up when Airbnb showed Indians how their homes can help them earn money. Over a million Indians lapped up the idea, and India is a prime market for the home-sharing behemoth. There is now no fear in letting people in, and sharing your culinary skills. We don't need foreign tourism to aid these endeavors, there are over 400 million desi millennials, ready to try out something new. This woke lot loves its food, and seeks regional gems, this is where culinary platforms like EatwithIndia and Authenticook come into play.
“Regional cuisines are difficult to find, even in large cities. Say in Delhi, if you want to eat Konkani food, where do you go? Authenticity is a big factor, this is where home-chefs make a difference,” says Sonal Saxena, co-founder, EatwithIndia, which started operations in 2015. Apart from hosting meals at chef’s home, they organise food-oriented outstation trips, and can also get you a dinner with a royal family, inside a fort-castle in Jaipur or palace in Lucknow. The crux of their operations, however, are home chefs. The average pricing for a home pop-up, is priced at Rs 800-Rs 1500 per person, depending on the cuisine. “We make sure the host chef communicates well, the surroundings are hygienic and of course, a clean loo in the house is a must,” she adds.
People are always keen on meeting up over a good meal, and it is no surprise when Saxena lists numbers: “We had over 75,000 meet-ups last year through our tie-up with travel portal MakeMyTrip.com alone. This is apart from our own website and other listings."
Mumbai, where most food meets usually take you through the city’s khau gallis for variations of dosas, pav bhaji, missal pav…etc. You also find curated homely sit down dinners offering Kashmiri wazwan, Malwani thalis and more. Pet Pujari is one such foodie club, well into its ninth year. “We do this twice a month. The beginning of every month will be set aside for the more pricey food establishments in Mumbai - #Fatka, and towards the end we will dine at eateries offering more VFM - #Kadka” says their website. There is Khao Pio Local, an exclusive foodie meet-up on Facebook. It meets once a month to try new cuisines.
The other big player in the home-dining space, Authenticook, has been helping cooks and foodies find each other since 2015. They have an impressive list of home chefs across the country showcasing their skills. Mumbai looks like their most active zone. Mumbaikars are truly spoilt for choice: how about a Gharwali lunch laden with mountain greens like kachnar, or a typical Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) Maharashtrian lunch with Bharli vange sode (brinjals stuffed with dried prawns), all of it is happening simultaneously in Mumbai.
Each city has its own set of foodies that swear by their regional cuisine. Their own favourite chefs, the authentic version of every dish. Kolkata, Pune, Hyderabad, each city has a large network of foodies…the list is endless. Bangalore too, the true millennial city, loves both local and global flavours, all of it available at the touch of a button. The surge of apps, highlights what people really want. It is not just the food, but also good company. “Food works as an ice-breaker,” says Anshumala, co-founder of Conosh, a brand-new location-based service started in Bangalore. With just two meet-ups under their belt, they’re optimistic about the venture despite competition. “In Bangalore, it is about people having a good time, with food. Our first was a Goan lunch, and everyone had a lot of fun and made new friends,” says Anshumala, who even takes her two-year-old for foodie hangouts. “We researched dating and other apps, but if you want to meet someone just to go out and eat with it, just for the love of good food and a good conversation, it is difficult. We want all ages, teenagers to 60-year-olds, share stories around a table,” she says.
Do check out the local foodie meet-ups in your area. You could begin your meal with strangers around a new cuisine at the dining table, and end the meal with new friends.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi.