The idea to create Meal Sharing solidified while I was traveling in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I had the unique opportunity to be hosted by a Cambodian family for a meal in their home. It was such a magical experience to be in their home, eating traditional Cambodian dishes and sharing tales from our respective homelands. The best part of the evening was when the host busted out his Casio keyboard and played some classical Cambodian songs. It was this first meal-share, even before there was a website, that was a major milestone and highlight.
There have definitely been many challenges along the way. I would say the hardest part was creating in a space that has not been explored before. We were one of the first websites to tackle such a large undertaking, and we had no data to follow, no proven models and certainly no budget. I basically put all my eggs in one basket. With the tremendous response from all around the world, I am glad I did.
Can you describe a moment when you knew this was big?
I have meal shared in Berlin, London and Paris. My favorite meal share was on a houseboat on the Thames in London eating Middle Eastern food. That is when I realized the potential Meal Sharing has for creating such unique experiences.
Along with people using the site while they traveled, we realized that people were using the website in their own hometowns. This showed there is a far greater reach in terms of how this is impacting society. People are now able to experience deeper cultural immersion in their own backyard. We realized we have the ability to broaden the definition of travel from geographical distance to cultural distance traveled. At this point, we find Meal Sharers around the world organizing group meals within their own community.
What is new about your thinking?
We cannot take credit for inventing anything new here. We are simply reimagining an old paradigm, a time when friends, neighbors and communities instinctively shared food. This time around we are using technology to facilitate global and local cultural exchange.
Also, one of the most exciting parts about Meal Sharing is the "make what you make" concept. We stress this throughout the entire site. The concept is simple: make something that you make on a typical night. You don't have to be a chef or create over-the-top meals. The Meal Sharing team wants to foster an environment of sharing. Whether a member creates a five-course meal or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the community will support it.
We have seen really creative meal titles come up. You can find a host doing "Typically Atypical Valencian Food" in Spain or "Americans home-cooking in Berlin.” People have a lot of fun with Meal Sharing, and more importantly hosts are able to express themselves without judgment.
What two or three people are most likely to try to refute your argument? Why?