Article posted on February 8th, 2018
Food & Wine journalist, Jillian Kramer interviews Christina Xenos, food journalist-turned trained chef and cookbook author and now veteran EatWith hostess to examine the benefits of hosting a meal for strangers.
by JILLIAN KRAMER
Think of it like the Airbnb of food.
Picture it: you’re a food journalist-turned trained chef and cookbook author—so naturally, when you throw your first party through the social dining platform EatWith, anyone who is anyone shows up: food writers, publicists and photographers. No pressure, though.
That’s what Christina Xenos, who is now a veteran EatWith host, faced for her very first event.
“Not only was I setting out on my maiden dinner, but also everything from the food prep to cooking to set-up—and, of course, the actual dinner—was being documented along the way,” Xenos recalls. “There was absolutely no room for meltdowns.”
Six of her eight guests were friends, but two were strangers. “One woman had just had a baby, and this was her first outing since,” Xenos says. “And the woman she came with was her labor and delivery nurse. I was honored they chose my event for the occasion.”
Xenos spread the appetizers around her kitchen—melitzanosalata, an eggplant salad dip; taramasalata, the Greek version of caviar; and a smattering of feta, olives and pita bread. The main dish that night—chicken kebabs—is no longer served at Xenos’ dinners. “It was cumbersome for me to play host and actively grill kebabs when my guests were here,” she explains. “But that night, while they were noshing, I was grilling while my husband played host.” Later, she served spanakopita with tzatziki, a traditional Greek village salad, and dessert—her signature baklava cupcakes with homemade olive oil gelato—on her patio.
“My favorite part of the night was when I was grabbing coffee for the table and at one moment—all together—everybody erupted in laughter,” Xenos says. “Although many of these people were my friends, most didn’t know one another; but by the end of the night, they were engrossed in lively conversation. There’s nothing more fulfilling as a chef host.”
And it’s that—the feeling of bonding people, of bringing strangers together over a shared meal—that motivates most, if not all, hosts on the EatWith Platform. Why else would someone invite strangers into their home, where knick-knacks and medicine cabinets are on display?
If you’re not familiar with the platform, EatWith, which recently joined forces with VizEat, is like the Airbnb of food. Chef hosts in various cities around the world offer up in-home dining experiences to anyone with an Internet connection and a few dollars to spend. In L.A., for example, you might log in to find Xenos’ dinner—A Sweet Greek Feast—appealing, and $74 later, you—and several others—could be signed up to visit her house on an upcoming date.
Guests get an authentic meal and the chance to make new friends around the chef’s table. But what do the hosts themselves experience—beyond a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of bringing people together? We set out to find out, and here’s what we learned.
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