The first time I chanced upon the British show Come Dine With Me I was hooked (the narration is literally everything). Four strangers, all from vastly different walks of life, take turns hosting a meal to compete for 1,000 pounds. It provides an intimate peek into each person’s life and plenty of banter. Lucky for us, the good people at VizEat have provided us with the same opportunity (well, sans the 1,000 quid prize, banter also optional).
Touted as the ‘Airbnb of food’ VizEat allows travellers to connect with hosts around the world for a meal, a cooking class or any other food experience. The experience is prepaid, so as to ensure any awkward ‘money talk’ is avoided around the table. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
Understandably, I got quite excited after reading a VizEat experience in The Guardian (it was titled, Come Dine VizEat, obviously I was going to read it). As a bit of a sociable asocial (it’s a thing, I swear) it seemed like the perfect way to get a taste of different cuisines and meet new people. Bengaluru has a massive expat population so a good meal wouldn’t be too hard to find right? Wrong.
In Bengaluru, there were only two ‘social eating experiences’ available and one of them was an Italian brunch – not hosted by an Italian. India didn’t fare much better with about 10 experiences to choose from, hardly any catering to Indian tourists.
The reason I think VizEat hasn’t been as successful yet in the subcontinent is because we, as Indian tourists, aren’t accustomed to paying for a meal at a house that isn’t a homestay. Paying for a homemade meal isn’t a concept that you’ll find in our culture. Where ever you travel, there’s always some family friend or ‘distant’ relative that puts you up or, at the very least, invites you for a meal.
Hence, the invites I found were very Anglo-centric. I did find a Spanish cooking class in Delhi (whose maker was, in fact, Spanish) but that was the only one by an expat. The problem is, in India, most expats eat out, or they already have a circle of expat friends without having to open their doors to the general public. Also, the expats here on work, or on longer visas already have point people to show them around.
Lastly, you pay in Euros, with hosts charging anywhere from 10 to 90 Euros per person – that’s around Rs. 1,280 to Rs. 6,800. If you’re willing to drop that kind of cash there are plenty of authentic restaurants happy to accommodate you – and, yes, it will be cheaper.