Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A Private Dinner in Paris

It is the eternal question of the tourist – how can I get to see the true heart of a place if I just drift through hotels, museums and restaurants? Few visitors to Paris ever get to see beyond the public face, but two sisters in the city have come up with an idea that may just help them to do so. Here, Maryam Ingar, one of the two sisters, explains that concept of the MyPrivateDinner website and how by using the service hungry visitors can get more than a glimpse into a very private Paris.

Maryam and Sarah Ingar are in many ways typically French - passionate about food and cooking! Maryam explains that her favourite pastime is finding new culinary venues and places to taste new creations and flavours. From this passion has come a desire to bring together other people with similar interests on a Web 2.0 platform. “The idea first came when I tried to organise an evening with some old college friends at home. We all use Facebook and other platforms, but we receive so many e-mails and requests to sign up to things that my invitation would just have been overlooked”. The solution, she decided with her sister, was to set up a social platform that would be open to people who wanted to get together for dinner parties or other culinary events.

The concept is a simple one. Hosts create events which are then opened to anybody who is registered on the platform, and the guests sign up if they want to take part. Of course, the hosts charge a fee for their event, but it becomes a great way for a visitor to try real homecooked food – in somebody’s home! There are no specific rules, and events planned at any particular time might be dinner parties, brunches, wine tastings or cupcake workshops.


The site, available in both French and English, was only launched around two months ago, but the network already includes several hundred people, and over 30 events have already been organised. Are all the hosts amateurs though, or are professionals trying to take advantage of the service to encourage people into their venues? Maryam Ingar agrees that it could be an issue, but has faith in the self-policing policy of the site. “The host is free to create an event and decide their own price. Yes, there are some professionals, for example those who organise wine or cheese tasting and also some restaurants. The principal is to create something convivial and to invite people you don’t know. A professional can still do this by making a private event with a limited number of guests.

Maryam sees the site more as a way to create a community and believes that it will also lead to friendships developing. Indeed, it is possible to become ‘friends’ with other members and hosts can choose which members they would like to invite. Although a monthly prize is available to the host judged to have organised the most successful event, Maryam does not see the site as a promotion of haute gastronomie. “A nice pasta dish is also very nourishing, and enables people to get together just as successfully!” she smiles.

The idea is an intruiging one, and a genuine way to see behind the closed doors, but will the site not eventually become a kind of private club with a limited number of members? Maryam waves away my concerns. “No" she insists, "we want to see as many people as possible join up. The site is a great way for tourists or people from other countries living in France to eat with French locals very easily and in just one click! What better way to get to know France and her culture than through the 'art de recevoir'!

10 comments:

Starman said...

What a great idea!! Now why didn't I think of that?

dana said...

Wow! This falls under 'traveler' instead of 'tourist'! Thank you for sharing!

Cergie said...

La meilleure façon de découvrir une ville est d'y vivre, d'y travailleret plus d'être marié avec qqn du pays et d'y fonder sa famille ; ce que tu fais bien sûr. Cependant il ne faut pas se faire d'illusion, jamais on ne peut connaitre totalemnt un pays, même en étant du pays ; on peut parler sa langue d'une façon satisfaisante sans en posséder les nuances n'ayant pas lu ses livres, étudié sa grammaire à l'école. Ainsi on se fait des idées sur la manière dont on parle l'anglais qui semble si facile et pourtant est tant nuancé il n'est qu'à lire "Harry Potter" dans le texte (littérature pour enfants pourtant).

Cergie said...

Ayant passé donc deux semaines en Guyane, nous avons eu la chance d'être accueillis pas des cousins qui y travaillent. Cependant ce ne sont que des "métros" c'est à dire par des "locaux" ; ils vivent différemment des personnes du cru.
Nous avons profité de leur "logistique" : adresses, accompagnement, bateau, etc, etc. Nous avons dormi dans la forêt et des "carbets" ouverts à la nuit dans des hamacs sans crainte, nous sommes baignés sans craindre non plus caïmans et requins. Mangé du tatou par exemple.
Cependant les plus belles rencontres que nous avons eues ont été "impromptues" et informelles, grâce au travail de mon mari et sa curiosité (journalisme dans le domaine agricole et horticole), grâce au regard, grâce au fait que nous nous soyons déplacés à deux souvent et non en groupe, grâce à la chaleur humaine et la générosité des personnes que nous avons rencontrées.

Il n’empêche que l’initiative de ces deux sœurs est tout à fait intéressante et prometteuse. C’est un bon support... logistique, à chacun ensuite d’en tirer le meilleur et l’inattendu

designslinger.com said...

What a timely piece, while we're obsessing about Thanksgiving Day gluttony with turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie over on this side of the Atlantic.

Chocoralie, a froggie in London said...

What an interesting view of Paris you have! Very addictive, really. I'm already a fan.

Nathalie said...

I love the concept. I would try and prevent professionals from joining in and spoiling the game if I were her. I'd be afraid to see them ruin the genuine friendliness behind the project.

Brilliant, really!
I see that as similar to couch surfing but for meals instead of accommodation.

Peter said...

So Cergie is trying to say that we are not real parisians, you and me! Well, she may be right, but at least we are trying hard! :-)

designslinger.com said...

Trying to say you are not real Parisians?! Balderdash! We live our authentic, Parisian, fantasy lives through you and Peter. Thank you very much.

Chris le cuistot said...

Le principe est très réjouissant. Sans le côté financier, ça peut être pas mal non plus. Il y a d'autres sites qui surfent sur cette tendance, je pense par exemple à DinonsChezMoi, ViensMangerALaMaison ou Dinons-Ensemble.

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