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The Short Version: Many couples have had to cancel travel plans in 2020, but Eatwith online cooking classes provide that international flavor they’ve been missing on date night. Initially, Eatwith was a platform created to connect tourists with locals looking to open their home kitchens and homes for culinary experiences. Due to the current travel context, the company launched online experiences in June 2020. The online cooking classes and workshops bring the magic of travel and cultural immersion to travel lovers stranded at home around the world. Cooks from around the world show couples how to make local specialties — from pasta in Rome to pâtisserie in Paris — for a delicious, interactive date night at home.
Martine and Olav, a married couple from Amsterdam, used to own and operate a French restaurant. Now, they open their home kitchen to interested cooks from around the world — virtually.
The couple teaches on Eatwith, a platform that connects food and travel lovers with passionate local hosts through in-person and online culinary experiences. Initially, Eatwith was the place to join authentic dinners, immersive lunches, and fun cooking classes in local homes while traveling domestically or internationally. meetings and cooking adventures for tourists in local homes. The company now also offers virtual cooking classes taught by professional and amateur chefs live from their own kitchens.
Before COVID-19, Martine and Olav invited travelers to “Martine’s Table” — their dining room table in a beautiful typical Dutch apartment overlooking Amsterdam’s oldest canal. On TripAdvisor, the experience is still rated the second best out of nearly 4,500 places to eat in Amsterdam. It also received the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award in 2020.
Eatwith plans to offer in-person dining experiences again, but its pivot to virtual cooking classes has been popular with couples worldwide. Another benefit is that diners don’t have to travel around the globe to enjoy the hospitality of locals.
“We believe that food brings people together. We see the food and the dining table as the original social network. People stop and connect when they share a meal together,” said Niamh Taylor, Eatwith’s International Marketing & CRM Manager.
For example, in their virtual experience, Martine and Olav are as friendly as they are in person while teaching participants to prepare creamy zucchini soup and a Niçoise salad.
Couples can easily cook those international recipes on a date night from the comfort of home.
When couples sign up for an Eatwith cooking class, they receive a list of ingredients to prepare before their class begins. They can expect the class not to run over the allotted time, so they will have a chance to enjoy their meal and talk more once it ends.
Eatwith was co-founded in 2014 by two French entrepreneurs who wanted to help tourists get off the beaten path on their visits abroad and get a taste of local culture. They thought the best way to accomplish that was to connect travelers and locals to share meals in an authentic and special setting — their homes.
With COVID-19, international travel ground to a standstill, and Eatwith started thinking of new ways to bring the magic and excitement of travel and cultural immersion to homes around the world. Online cooking classes and workshops seemed to be the next best thing.
“We started creating these online experiences with incredible local hosts live from some of the most beautiful destinations in the world, including Florence, Rome, and Paris,” Niamh said.
Couples interested in sharing a virtual cooking class can search by type of cuisine, including Italian, Mediterranean, Asian, Pastry & Baking, or simply browse through a variety of fun, exciting online classes.
When the class begins, hosts coach couples through cooking a date-night dish. But if classes aren’t your thing, you can also join an online workshop that is focused on cultural immersion and local food-related traditions and customs.
For instance, Niamh described one workshop that she took with her team members — Turkish Coffee Fortune Reading.
“The host, Uluç Ülgen, is originally from Turkey and based in New York. In Turkey, they have this culture and tradition where they read your future in your coffee grounds. You can come to the virtual workshop with friends or a partner to get your future read. The predictions are super on point, and it’s fun because he’s a vibrant personality. It’s a really fun way to spend an evening in,” she said.
Couples may spend more time together than ever before, but it may not be quality time. Taking a cooking class with a partner encourages couples to connect in a unique way.
Partners who try new things together on date night often have happier relationships. Though fewer opportunities exist for travel experiences this year, couples can prioritize shaking up their routines at home.
“Meals are important for couples. They should take that time to put everything away, sit down, and spend quality time together. Shared meals are a real tradition in European countries, it’s when we turn off our phones and the TV and make time to reconnect. We are so engrossed in our phones and day-to-day life, so we look forward to sharing those special moments when cooking and eating,” Niamh said.
Those in the U.S. looking to connect with a partner may opt for an Eatwith experience that’s particularly American. The company recently launched a partnership with MasterChef USA to have the TV show’s contestants and finalists share their recipes with fans and foodies around the country through MasterChef online classes.
An online class with the 2017 MasterChef, Brien O’Brien brings a “wow” factor as guests learn to make his signature Meatloaf from the show.
“You can take classes with a former participant contestant, or even with Brien O’Brien, the 2017 MasterChef. They’re offering fun cooking classes where you can work with a MasterChef contestant, , get pro tips, insider stories from the show and learn to make a fool-proof dish to impress friends and family,” Niamh said.
MasterChef USA classes teach participants how to prepare signature dishes, including Thai Larb, eggs benedict, authentic tacos, or even a delicious classic meatloaf with contestants in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
The MasterChef USA contestants are joining the Eatwith host family, a group of passionate chefs and home cooks who enjoy sharing their love for food with the world.
“Our hosts are passionate about what they do. They go the extra mile to make every experience special and truly unique. What we find touching is when people attend an experience and say it was the highlight of their week,” Niamh said.
While many couples had to cancel their travel plans this year, an Eatwith online cooking class or workshop can ensure partners still connect with other cultures — and each other. Although COVID-19 temporarily put Eatwith’s original mission of connecting locals and travelers abroad on hold, the team pivoted to continue fostering its mission: fostering human connections through food.
Couples who love to travel also say Eatwith online experiences are satisfying their travel bugs. For instance, one couple that travels to Rome every year wrote in to tell the Eatwith team that they took a class focused on Roman cuisine.
“They said it was the next best thing to being able to travel,” Niamh shares.
Even though the shift to online cooking experiences wasn’t necessarily part of the plan, Eatwith will continue offering its popular virtual classes in addition to in-person experiences even after quarantine. It’s easier for travel-loving couples to take a cooking class after work or on the weekend than to travel to another country.
Eatwith has plans to expand in the United States, as well. Its next objective is to offer sustainable cooking and eating experiences with hosts who foster ethical food practices.
“We want to branch out into sustainable experiences hosted by environmentally oriented cooks. We want to engage folks in bringing locally sourced and seasonal products, as well as focus on timely food preparations,” Niamh said.
In the meantime, Niamh and the Eatwith team hope that cooking with international hosts is satisfying for couples. She also hopes the classes can also teach couples how to make time for each other — even after the pandemic is over.
“We love catering to Americans who are culturally curious and looking for new things,” Niamh said.
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