Foodies' open house

Foodies' open house

It's a bit like running a restaurant in your own home.

That's how Miss Leticia Tartaglia describes hosting a group of strangers in her apartment at Robin Road, off Stevens Road, which she shares with her partner, Mr Emre Kimizci.

"He's Turkish and I'm Brazilian, so our goal is to combine the best food from the two cultures and prepare it barbecue-style.

"We love to cook, eat, (have) entertainment and drink good wine," says the 30-year-old, who has between six and nine people in her home each time she hosts the dinners during weekends.

The interesting bit? Her guests are referred to her via Malaysia-based website Plateculture, which puts people interested in hosting with people interested in eating her home-cooked food. They view the menu and book a slot.

Miss Tartaglia has hosted two such dinners so far.

Meal hosts like her decide how much to charge for each meal. The amount is then marked up by 20 per cent - which goes to the website - before it is posted online.

She says she makes a profit of about 15 to 20 per cent of the price charged.

"The meat is normally the most expensive part of my dinner and we also open a few bottles of wine," she explains.

Plateculture's founder Audra Pakalnyte says there are no formal rules in most countries governing dinner parties.

"It's like any regular home where someone hosts a dinner party and guests share the cost for the ingredients used.

"Also, we share guidelines prepared by the National Environment Agency, titled 'Good food hygiene tips for residents preparing food under HDB/URA's home-based small scale business scheme'," she says.

Prices are similar to what restaurants charge.

A three- or four-course dinner can set you back by between $30 and $72, depending on the food items and type of ingredients used.

Payment has to be made online before the address and contact number of the host are released, explains Miss Pakalnyte.

Interior designer Glynis Hong, who has attended one dinner so far, reckons that the $48 she paid for Miss Tartaglia's home-cooked spread was worth it.

"It was a very big spread," comments the 29-year-old, adding that she did not worry about hygiene because she is used to attending dinners hosted by friends and trusts the host in maintaining basic standards.

The dinner start-up is part of what has been dubbed "the sharing economy", which refers to socio-economic systems that use information technology to enable shared access to goods, services, data and talent.

This form of consumption is gaining traction around the world because it gives people the benefits of ownership with reduced personal cost and burden.

Miss Pakalnyte, a 29-year-old Lithuanian who has been living in Malaysia for the past five years, launched the website in June.

The response has been surprisingly good, she says.

She adds: "We were unsure about whether it would take off in a big way, because Asian culture is often thought to be pretty closed.

"But more than 200 meals have been hosted since we started, and people seem to be open and willing to host and attend such events as a way of experiencing a different culture, meeting new people and picking up new cooking tips."

Western expatriates are not the only ones attracted to the website.

Mr Kenneth Yong, who lives in a five-room flat in Sengkang, is looking forward to hosting his first dinner on Oct 19.

"I'm used to friends coming over to my place for dinner, so when a friend introduced the concept to me, I thought I would give it a shot," says the 29-year-old project manager, who counts seafood paella and mushroom risotto as his signature dishes.

Home dining elsewhere

HomeDine

A platform where diners and home cooks "find" each other.

The website allows users to plan the logistics of a meal event and invite guests online.

Other members can then look for meals near them. Users can also comment, rate and review the meals.

KitchenSurfing

This website allows hungry people to "order" a home cook, who will show up at their doorstep at an appointed time and date to whip up a storm.

Diners can also customise the menu to exclude or include certain ingredients.

The cooks even clean up after they are done.

Shareyourmeal

Users of the website receive e-mails on the available food offers around.

They order a meal and go to the home cook's place to pick it up at an agreed time.

The cost of the meal is paid in cash upon collection.


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