Picture it: your birthday is rapidly approaching. You have a group of friends you are celebrating with, and despite your best efforts, every restaurant you look at to make a reservation is completely booked. Or maybe you want to do something entirely different. With experiences now in Philadelphia, Eatwith is your solution.
Unofficially referred to as the “AirBnb of food,” Eatwith allows locals and travelers to choose from over 5,000 culinary events in over 1,100 destinations including dining experiences, cooking classes and food tours and private events — all led by a network of hand-picked home cooks, MasterChefs, and Michelin-starred chefs. You select your location, date and number of guests, and let Eatwith take it from there. I have not yet had my own Eatwith experience, but I’m definitely looking forward to having one.
How did you become involved with Eatwith?
Raquel Villanueva: Prior to joining Eatwith as a host, I launched a food concept called Tita Emmie’s (“Tita” means aunt in Tagalog). This concept was inspired by my mom and titas and my experiences as a first-generation Filipina-American. I’ve always been passionate about food so being able to share a piece of my story and my culture through cooking came naturally. I started out doing pop-ups but really wanted to be able to connect with guests and talk about not only the dish in front of them but the inspiration and experiences behind them. I wanted to replicate the intimate dinner parties I would host for our close friends and family and so that led me to Eatwith.
Ryan Brown: A close college friend Dee went to an Eatwith Demo event of her sorority sister’s in NYC. After the experience, she called me and knew becoming a host would be perfect for me. In college, my roommates and I used to host Sunday’s dinners, cookouts, and pre-Thanksgiving before “Friendsgiving” was a thing.
What can guests expect when participating in one of your dining experiences?
Raquel Villanueva: Guests can expect an intimate dinner party as if they were at one of their friend’s homes. There’s always some hip-hop and 90s R&B playing in the background and just like other Filipino homes, we ask guests to take their shoes off at the door but we always have a basket full of slippers ready. Expect a happy belly and some new friends by the end of the night.
Ryan Brown: Guests can expect fresh and familiar ingredients that will provide comfort in unexpected ways. Each dish has a historical significance and a personal impact on me. I share this history during the plating of each dish. It’s important to know where the food comes from, how the techniques were developed and why they are necessary. I am a nerd that way. Probably why Alton Brown is my favorite!
What does it mean to you to be able to share your passion of cooking and your culture with others?
Raquel Villanueva: Filipino food is still so underrepresented in the states despite Filipinos being one of the largest Asian groups in the country so it’s very meaningful to be able to bring more Filipino eats to the Philly food scene. It’s fulfilling to be able to share my culture and my story with others through my love for cooking. Each dish I make is special to me because it becomes a physical representation of a piece of my identity.
Ryan Brown: Eatwith has provided me with an outlet to share my culinary journey through the African diaspora. I use food to find bits and pieces of my heritage that was lost. Through my Eatwith experience, I share the history and flavors of my ancestors and the impacts Africans have made within various cuisines. People often do not realize the impact Africans have made in modern cuisines presently. Creole, Caribbean, Latin, and southern soul food cuisines are rooted in African culture. My dinner experience highlights and explains these connections.
What makes an Eatwith dining experience so special to you?
Raquel Villanueva: My heart is so full after each and every dinner that my husband and I host. It is so humbling to have strangers come eat with us and be open to a new cuisine and dining experience. It’s so special to witness a group of strangers sit down at our table and leave as friends.
Ryan Brown: The Eatwith dining experience creates an environment for people to be creative while sharing their love of food! Whether you enjoy cooking, eating, or both: Eatwith is for you. I love the communal dining experience. That’s why I built a seven-foot table. I love to bring groups of people together over a meal. There is no better way to experience a culture than with food. Eatwith creates social experiences for people that will forever change the way people go out. This is an old tradition in an innovative form. Reuniting family dinner for strangers.