Innovative Food Experiences

I’m a foodie! (Gee, no surprise there.) My exposure to innovative chefs has been mostly from dining at restaurants, watching them on TV (think “Chopped,” “Top Chef,” etc.), and seeing them at food events. So I was excited to learn about two different approaches to getting that awesome chef-food experience.

The first came to me in an unusual way. I was interviewing Darlene, a potential employee, whom we have since hired. As I was reviewing her resume, I noticed she spent most of the last year working for Outstanding in the Field. So I asked her about that.

Darlene told me that Jim Denevan and his food-loving group of friends started out at a vegetable farm near Santa Cruz, California, offering a dinner made with only local ingredients. That was in 1999.

In the last 18 years, Jim’s company and his farm-to-table dinners—always held right on a farm—have expanded so they are now held across North America, and even in France, Argentina, and Japan. Outstanding in the Field puts on 87 events each year and every single farm dinner is sold out in advance!

So get this: Once spring starts (and vegetables and fruits are ready for harvest), Jim’s team of cooks, servers, and foodies loads up a bus, trucks, and vans with people and props, and starts the journey across America. At each stop, publicized on Instagram, Twitter, and Outstanding’s website, the crew arrives at a field. Some of the crew then set up a long table and chairs for all the guests. In the field. Everyone else is cooking, oftentimes working directly with the farmers and local chefs until the guests arrive.

Each meal is based completely on locally sourced ingredients. That means the menu changes every time. Everyone in the crew of a couple dozen people does multiple jobs (whatever it takes), from prepping food and serving to answering questions about the food and menu. And they do this over and over, across the country, every few days, for months at a time.

After almost two decades, it’s exciting to know that Jim still has passion for celebrating the people whose hard work brings good food to the table, aka, all the people that are “Outstanding in the Field.”

I was fascinated with this model of true word of mouth (WOM) marketing. I cannot wait until I can coordinate my schedule to attend a dinner later this year.

The second innovative chef experience brings chefs to your home. This enterprise, MiumMium (French Canadian for “yum”), was started by a professional chef and entrepreneur, Chloe St-Cyr.

Her foodie-rewarding version of Uber connects potential customers with professional, and sometimes “damn good” amateur, chefs. The mobile culinarians go right into gourmands’ homes with all the food they need to prepare memorable dining experiences. And not just in the U.S. There are more than 11,000 chefs from around the world registered with MiumMium.

The way it works is kind of like other shared economy enterprises, one of the best being Airbnb. In an interview with Specialty Food Magazine, St-Cyr said that Uber and Airbnb are “monetizing an unused asset…there are millions of chefs around the world, why not create a platform where they can market their skills and earn some extra cash?”

So, chefs advertise their menus at prices they set on Chloe’s digital platform and MiumMium promotes the chefs’ work on the website. Consumers browse to select a location, menu, and chef that they want. And the food is expertly prepared by the chef in their home.

Can you imagine? If you want to have a few friends over for a chef-quality gourmet dinner, but don’t want to slave away in the kitchen all day, all you have to do is go on the website, find the chef you want, the menu you like, and pre-pay with your credit card. Then the chef shows up at your home at the appropriate time and prepares an amazing meal!

Last year meals cost about $48 per person, on average, including everything but the tip.

All I can say is, if you are a foodie or a wannabe foodie, many options are available for the food experience you’ve dreamed of. Uber meets Airbnb meets farmers market meets chef-prepared dinner. I’m already planning my next food experience. What about you?

Karen

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