Stay-at-home mandates and safety measures have left us yearning for restaurants, bars, and places to gather. Not only do we desire dining across the globe, but most of us would also be thrilled for more faces across the dinner table. We crave (pun intended) to create new memories like the old, lengthy, enjoyable discussions on the one topic that always brings us together, food. Food is one of society’s safety nets, not just for its obvious necessity and sustenance, but as a nucleus that draws us together daily. The ritual of dining, when shared, is an occasion not only to communicate but to use cultures, flavors, and culinary skills from around the globe to connect on a deeper level uniquely. And connectivity is what we all crave right now. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns us that Public health actions, such as lockdowns and social distancing, while necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, can make us feel isolated and lonely and often create or intensify stress and anxiety.
During these exceptional times, calling and online visits are helpful, and it is essential to check in with people that may be feeling lost or isolated. Still, these solutions are brief and generally don’t provide the human interaction we all seem to need right now. We need authentic pasta in Tuscany with friends, Turkish coffee with grandparents, or an Italian birthday celebration with lessons from a chef. Fantastic food experiences to look forward to with anticipation. Creating memorable celebrations with food online sounds terrific, uplifting, normal, and, well, daunting. But we are only just beginning to realize that not only is this possible and relatively easy, it’s also therapeutic and very beneficial to mental health. Connecting with a friendly face for an extended period of time, with a purpose behind the get-together, is medicine for those feelings of isolation.
Global food experience portals are on the rise, offering choices regarding how and where we eat. Some feature virtual reality and still require a trip to a local restaurant or venue, such as artist Mattia Casalegno’s spectacular virtual reality experiences, which started in Korea and China and were brought to the west in 2020. In these environments, you find yourself sitting in spinnable chairs wearing virtual reality goggles after being coached on how to eat in what can only be described as a surreal setting. However, these in-person experiences are for the future, when we can enjoy such adventures in the company of others—keeping our distance with team building objectives, whether within your company, corporation, or family, has grown in popularity as we endure various shutdowns stages. One UK-based company, Supper Stars, has sprung from an international community of professional chefs, but this is a cooking experience with a twist. In April of 2020, they launched an online team-building option for remote groups. Participants can cook one or more recipes live with their designated chef, who offers advice and tips during the process. You can enjoy creating a simple course or two or engage in a restaurant-style challenge where groups of all abilities compete, learn together, and bond.
For many, the desire is to learn a little about a food style and region and connect with friends and family while cooking and eating simply. High-quality global-food online dining experiences that provide these more laid-back experiences are available. One such example is Eatwith, which offers festive gatherings far-away with home cooks or Michelin starred chefs; the choice is yours. This is as easy as a few clicks on your computer. Eatwith is the world’s largest community for authentic culinary experiences with locals, available in over 130 countries. They started as an organization that connected travelers seeking unique and immersive experiences with hand-selected local hosts in private homes and exclusive venues. Travel has practically been put on hold due to the COVID 19 pandemic, and, being a travel-oriented company, this team had to reinvent itself. Until it’s safe for people to travel and explore the world again, this team has adapted by offering various online experiences. They started with approximately twenty online cooking classes and workshops led by local chefs, direct from their homes worldwide. Today, they offer over a hundred impressive online experiences. These are captivating online occasions that cover just about any culinary lesson or adventure your heart could desire or dream up. Vast in offerings, you can choose an interactive, engaging cooking demonstration with a Michelin starred chef or experience a more focused wellness approach. There are more therapeutic and personalized choices. For example, you can learn how to make a delectable and gut-healthy Bibimbap—followed by a calming and bonding breathwork class run by a therapist and life coach. The objective is to connect, distract, and relax while soaking up the experience with friends and family, which is truly the next best thing to travel.
Like many globe-trotting exploration companies, Eatwith stemmed from the desire to share the best of various corners of the globe. After having their own immersive food experiences with families and new friends while traveling afar, Jean-Michel Petit and Camille Rumani felt compelled to establish this venture, which they did in 2014.
These hyper-local events take time and effort to curate while ensuring quality. With companies like these, we find professionally vetted food offerings that are ready for guests worldwide. The result is effortless cultural food enjoyment and learning experiences both on and offline.
This pandemic has been dark. An online food experience is ideal for bringing some light and fun to those you like and love by offering something unique and shared. The simple act of communal dining can help boost happiness, nurture a sense of security and belonging, and even relieve depression. Online curated dining events are a great stress reliever that fuels the body and mind; what better gift could there be to give yourself or someone you care about during these taxing times?