New social networks connects cooks and diners

2014-04-23 22:19
The Jolla smartphone powered by Sailfish is aimed at taking on Google Android operating system. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The Jolla smartphone powered by Sailfish is aimed at taking on Google Android operating system. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Buenos Aires - If the latest development in culinary social media catches on, the trendiest restaurants may no longer be restaurants.

A growing number of apps and websites are taking the traditional chef-diner relationship out of established eateries and into private homes. Cookapp, for example, is just the latest to launch in the US, connecting adventurous diners with independent chefs - and even just ambitious amateur cooks - willing to host dinners at their homes and other offbeat locations.

Like its peers EatWith and Feastly, Cookapp is taking a bite from the edible side of the "shared economy", where so-called peer-to-peer businesses are disrupting established industries and giving headaches to municipal regulators and tax collectors.

Other non-food apps in this realm include Uber and Lyft, which match private drivers with people needing rides, and VRBO and Airbnb, which help people turn their homes into vacation rentals.

Cookapp, which recently moved its headquarters from Buenos Aires to New York City, works like a matchmaker, arranging intimate gourmet dinners between strangers.

Chefs list when and where they will prepare particular meals; diners book what interests them, pay upfront via the app, then just show up and enjoy.

For chefs, it offers a chance to experiment without the hassle, expense and risk of maintaining a restaurant. For diners, it can be the ultimate culinary adventure.

Tomas Bermudez came up with the idea for Cookapp while living in Rio de Janeiro, where he struggled to meet people. So he and his sister hatched the Cookapp idea, then set up a website and began knocking on the doors of cooks and chefs back home in Argentina.

"We said, 'Is it cool for you to invite people to your house whenever you want?' And they loved it," he said. "We proved it in Buenos Aires, so we're thinking let's go to New York, and if it works in New York, it works worldwide."

Passionate cooks have long hosted open dinner parties, hoping random guests will share their joy and help with expenses. Some have even created virtual restaurants, comparable to the speakeasies that served illegal liquor during the US prohibition era.

Expanding

In Argentina, these "puertas cerradas", or "closed-door" restaurants, proliferated after the economy crashed in 2002, operating on a cash basis, without formal advertising or oversight.

More than 50 000 users and 650 cooks registered with Cookapp during its yearlong tryout in Argentina's capital, and just six weeks after its New York City launch, 250 cooks and thousands of customers have signed up there.

Next up, the company hopes to expand to San Francisco, followed by Boston and a host of other major US cities.

"I hosted my own dinner club for years and while I absolutely loved it, the seamless logistics behind Cookapp are a dream. I don't have to worry about anything and no money is exchanged the day of the event," said Amber Shreiner, a vegetarian cook advertising a five-course tasting menu with "craft cocktails and endless glasses of wine" at her Manhattan apartment.

EatWith, a startup in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Feastly, which is based in Washington DC, offer similar models, though only some of their cooks get "verified" icons to indicate they meet the companies' quality and safety standards.

Bologna, Italy-based HomeFood focuses on tourists in Italy, while UK-based Eat With a Local promotes food festivals and other events, as well as home-cooked meals.

Regulation

But whether and how to regulate these gatherings that exist on the periphery of the restaurant world is a challenge wherever they pop up.

In New York City, the health department says home-based restaurants are illegal statewide and officials say they could shut down or fine cooks who turn the occasional dinner into a regular income stream.

"These establishments don't have a permit from the Health Department, nor are they inspected by city health inspectors," a health department spokesperson said via email.

Cookapp describes itself as a marketing service that simply matches chefs with customers who make "donations". Its founders say they are eager to work with governments to create safe and legal spaces for these dinner parties to thrive.

Meanwhile, they say they are following the law and paying taxes, and urges hosts to do so as well.

"It really is a murky line," acknowledged Cookapp's CEO and co-founder, Pedro Rivas. "What we do is allow chefs to host dinner parties. People are paying a donation to cover part of the cost of hosting a dinner party. That way we can operate here a little safer without running into the legal mumbo jumbo, particularly in New York, which is a litigious city."

How involved companies are in vetting hosts can vary. Cookapp "offers a more curated experience", Rivas says, by evaluating every would-be host beforehand.

The company sends a freelance photographer to a dinner party to take pictures and judge the cook's hosting ability, food quality and the setting's comfort and cleanliness.

Like the others, Cookapp also has insurance that covers chefs to some extent in case a meal goes terribly wrong.

Participating cooks say they shouldn't be regulated like restaurants, which have to get certificates, permits and licenses from multiple city and state agencies. New York food providers also must post letter grades from annual sanitary inspections.

But as millions of dollars move into this "shared economy", regulatory oversight is inevitable. Airbnb agreed last month to start charging hotel taxes on San Francisco customers, and wants to do the same in New York, where opponents of the service say it fosters illegal nuisance rentals.

And shared-ride services recently agreed to limit their drivers and require insurance in Portland, Oregon. "Of course there is a very grey area, and we want to make it as white as we can," Bermudez said.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  apps
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Get fit on a budget

It’s time to throw the “I can’t afford to exercise” excuse out the window.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips for paddling your first Dusi
Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Financial Manager

Cape Town
Communicate Cape Town Finance
R500 000 - R700 000 Per Year

Divisional Head: Acquisition Management

Western Cape
People Partners
R994 664 - R1 657 774 Per Year

Mobile Developer (iOS/Android)

Western Cape
Xebec Human Capital PTY LTD

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may prefer to be in charge because then you can call the shots. You are not as flexible as you like to make out to be and you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.