With Feastly, Your Home Becomes the Restaurant and Your Home-Cooking the Cuisine
by Josh Novikoff
“Barriers to entry to the food world keep coming down as entrepreneurs become more creative and consumers become hungrier for something new. If you can’t afford a brick-and-mortar restaurant, start a food truck. Can’t afford the truck either? Pop up in an existing space in their off-hours. If the idea of operating every day is too daunting, do some one-off selling at a grey market. If that’s not your bag, what’s left? Invite strangers into your home once in a while to sell them a meal.
“Over the last few months, local entrepreneur Noah Karesh and D.C. story-gatherer Danny Harris have joined forces to launch Feastly, an online marketplace that enables regular folk to turn their homes into restaurants and themselves into chefs for one-night engagements. Interested cooks reach out to Karesh and Harris to sign up to host a meal, setting a theme, menu and cost per person, which usually ends up being somewhere in the $40-range for dinner. The meal is advertised to potential diners through Feastly’s e-mail list and a heavy dose of tweeting and Facebook posts.
“There have been shades of the underground home-cooked dinner market in D.C. for the last several years. Professional chef Carole Greenwood had been running mysterious Orange Arrow dinners since leaving Buck’s Fishing and Camping. Hush Supper Club exists as one amateur cook’s invitation for Indian meals and the culture behind them at her home. If you’re friends with Chez le Commis, you might be able to have dinner at his place. There are surely other cool options we’re don’t know about (they are supposed to be underground after all).
“Feastly differs by casting a wide-net that allows any home chef to get on board with the start-up and turn their own home into a restaurant for the evening. Karesh and Harris cooked up the idea together during a D.C. Startup Weekend last November and began (and continue) to cultivate a community of like-minded amateur cooks and eaters. There is an inherent warmth, personal care and craftsmanship that goes into a meal of assembled strangers around a home communal table, one that they readily advertise and document on their blog.
“There was a Cuban dinner for 12 by cooks Greer Gilchrest and Lisa Markuson with stuffed plantains and avocado pies. Guests were asked to bring their own rums along from their home collections. Or Chef Anya’s Nouvelle Cuisine Extravaganza in Columbia Heights, with elaborately conceived lobster avocado Napoleons, crab bread pudding, monkfish with miso broth, root vegetables, turnip puree, and shitake mushrooms, and a citrus white chocolate parfait with bittersweet and Grand Marnier truffles. (The haute menu and photographic evidence suggest a meal that might have competed for top honors on Top Chef.)
“Sandy and Jason’s Cream and Spice dinner, also in Columbia Heights, was a little less gourmet than Anya’s, but featured plenty of homemade bread, chicken kabobs, and pistachio custard. This past weekend, Chefs Kya and Brian had six feasters over for Samgyupsal, Kimchi Jun, and eventually karaoke in their Ballston apartment and Lamia hosted an Algerian brunch in Adams Morgan. The inaugural Feastly dinner? Karesh and Harris brought down Harris’ mom from New York for that Libyan feast which was held in Karesh’s group house.
“The communal nature of the enterprise is also highlighted by an underground food meetup and free market (effectively a monthly potluck) Feastly has hosted twice at the Blind Dog Café, the pop-up coffee shop Karesh has installed with partners Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist in a corner bar called Darnell’s on Florida Avenue, in the vicinity of Howard University and the 9:30 Club. The pop-up has served as a hub as Feastly expands from a home-spun outlet to buzz-worthy enterprise. The second Feastly dinner, that Cuban one, was hosted by Markuson and the sister of Blind Dog Café cofounder Cullen Gilchrest. The two are partners in Black Strap Baking Co., which happens to do the baking for Blind Dog.
“And things keep going from there. Each week Feastly has a new meal or two to list, and the start-up is in its infancy. In a recent feature on WAMU, Harris discussed hopes to make Feastly a way to connect diners to home cooks across the country.”
See the article here.