Ever cooked too much food for dinner and didn’t know what to do with it? Two roommates, Nadya Khoja and Sarah Lee, experienced this problem too many times, and so decided to do something about it. Each evening they plan their menu down to the particular herbs that will top the dish, despite not knowing who will be eating their meal.
Despite neither of them working with food professionally, the 24-year-olds have a passion for food that fuels their motivation to run their unofficial restaurant. They run Chez Lisgar out of their Toronto condo every Friday night and invite their guests through Facebook. The use of social media allows them to find out their guests’ names, basic details, and to make sure that they are a real person. Lee said, “When we told our families what we were doing, there was a bit of concern. You know, just this idea of inviting complete strangers over. But we’ve only had positive experiences so far.”
Alongside AirBnB for online accommodation bookings, home restaurant sites are now also becoming popular, and include Feastly in the US, and Israel-based startup EatWith, where people make dinner reservations at residences across the world.
Whilst some of these home restaurants charge in cash, Khoja and Lee decided that they won’t charge for the food if the guests bring the alcohol. Khoja commented, “We don’t make a profit but we definitely make our money back in wine”. After receiving too many requests to respond to on a bartering website called Bunz, they then went on to create a separate site where potential guests can sign up. Khoja explained, “Then we could just alert them whether or not they made the cut”, and Lee added “The response we got was so overwhelming. It really kind of showed there is this yearning for this connection with people.”
Whilst one public concern has been that there are no health checks in the host houses, similar to those in restaurants, Toronto Public Health told CBC News that anyone in Ontario who is “running a home food service operation must follow provincial regulations for proper food handling and storage”.
Khoja and Lee have found the experience a great way to meet new people, and avoid food waste. “There’s something very magical about it,” says Lee.
I am Jess Murray, wildlife conservationist, photographer and writer. I like to document the natural world and create awareness through my writing so that your future can be sustainable and positive. Follow my Facebook page and Instagram account to be part of the journey.