One of the best things about traveling is experiencing the regional dishes of the places you are visiting. With so many chain restaurants all over the world it can be hard to find authentic homecooking anywhere. A plate of food at a Chili’s restaurant, for example, will taste and look exactly the same whether you are eating in Florida or Seattle. When you do find independent restaurants they aren’t always the kinds of places that you want to eat — at least without good health insurance.
The optimum solution would be to eat at the homes of local people, fellowship with the families, and get a deeper understanding of the story behind the food as well as experiencing the food itself. Short of hanging around in local grocery stores and chatting up the residents there hasn’t been a way to do that until now. Cookening fills the need for foodies to network with homecooks all over the world and allows them to have the experience of homecooked, regional menus with fresh,local ingredients. It’s a brilliant concept.
Cédric Giorgi, the creator of Cookening, got the idea in 2011 while on a trip to California he thought that it would be fantastic if people from all over the world could eat regional homecooking — eating at people’s homes as a way to discover local foods and cultures. Once back in France he and two friends started the company by creating a website that was easy to use by anyone, anywhere in the world. It was Cedric himself that organized the first test dinners in his own apartment. From the Cookening website —
We want to bring people from other cultures together around home cooked food so that they can experience something that they may never have had the chance to experience. Cooks get the opportunity of sharing their true authentic cuisine with interested people that want to experience real local food. Plus, they can make extra money, and we want to empower these people with great cooking and hosting skills!
The Cookening website acts as a facilitator between those who want to experience the area in a deeper way and those who want to share their love of cooking, entertaining, and culture.
How Does Cookening Work?
The website is the meeting place for travelers looking for a unique dining experience and hosts wanting to share there expertise with regional foods. You would first create an account and then do a search in the area where you will be staying. You would then look over the profiles, which include sample menus, of the available hosts and make a reservation with the family. At that point you will pay a suggested “contribution” and get ready to experience a unique gastronomic experience. You don’t have to choose dinner. Some hosts choose to offer other homecooked meals such as breakfast or brunch, lunch or tea.
If you would rather cook a meal you would just need to create an account, fill in the information about yourself and add meal suggestions and images. When an interested traveler contacts you you’ll accept the booking and cook the meal at the agreed upon time. The guest will be eating with your family — you aren’t expected to be a restaurant.
Although the majority of dining locations are in Europe, there are a few in the United States.
Legalities of Homecooking
While it isn’t legal to sell food from your home in many areas there are no laws about providing a meal for visitors and being paid a donation to cover your costs and effort. The hosts must provide extensive information before they are allowed to become part of the program and each host’s information is reviewed by the team. Since the hosts actually eat with the guests there won’t be those who are in it for money and just throw slop on the table — at least one would hope not.
For the most part hosts are involved because they love to cook and entertain and this gives them a chance to do so more often than they might were they just throwing dinners for family and friends. The food is expected to be high quality, the house clean, and the company jovial. If a guest thinks the house was unclean or there was another problem they can report the problem and the host will be contacted. If the Cookening team believes that there is a real problem the guests will be reimbursed and the host will no longer be allowed to be part of the program.
It doesn’t cost anything to register. The cost comes in the form of the contribution and the small percentage the Cookening team charges as facillitators. The host doesn’t have to accept the booking and has the chance to message with the guest in order to answer any possible questions that either of them might have. Later on each will have the opportunity to give the other a rating so that if a guest is difficult other hosts will be alerted to it. At the same time if a guest feels that a host was not up to par they can give them a poor rating.
It is truly a fascinating concept that will change the way that people experience cultures and people during their travels. It isn’t just the traveler on the receiving end, either. Imagine having a constant stream of international guests at your dinner table!
If you love to cook and entertain this might just be the outlet that you are looking for. It is on the order of a bed and breakfast but without the long term commitment. A couple of hours and things are back to normal!