Published October 28, 2020
We first told you about Tasting Collective in early 2019. Founded by New Yorker Nat Gelb, this unique membership-based dining experience was expanding into the South, arriving in Nashville to great accolades. Tasting Collective was created to nurture the human connection between chef and customer. Members enjoyed carefully crafted meals at some of the nation’s most popular restaurants while getting to know the chefs more intimately — learning what inspires them, how they approach their craft and generally indulging in a one-of-a-kind and highly memorable night out. This self-proclaimed “Food Lover’s Community” was enjoying tremendous success in cities like Austin, Charlotte, San Francisco, Chicago and many others.
And then the pandemic hit.
“In early March, Tasting Collective was going gangbusters,” says Nat. “We had 6,000 paying members, and we were about to launch in our 13th city. We were selling close to 1,000 tickets each week, and then literally overnight, everything stopped.” As it turns out, social dining clubs aren’t wildly popular during a pandemic.
Nat says there was about a week of shock and scrambling for his team as they wondered what their next steps would be. “We had 6,000+ [club members] who love food and experiences, and we wanted to help restaurants and couldn’t do it at that point. We also had these hundreds of amazing chefs we worked with,” he shares. “We wondered, How can we tap into our community at a time when people can’t be together?” And that’s when the lightbulb went off — and Chefstreams was born.
Similar in concept to Tasting Collective, Chefstreams strives to nurture the human connection between chef and member, but it does so via live-streamed, interactive cooking classes led by award-winning chefs from some of the country’s top dining destinations. For the first class, Nat tapped New York chef Jason Marcus, chef and co-owner of Traif in Brooklyn, NY, to teach people how to cook a multi-course meal that was representative of his restaurant. “We put together a recipe book with step-by-step instructions for each dish, as well as an overview of the chef and restaurant. We then reached out to members and asked who was interested,” Nat explains. They sold 175 tickets right off the bat, and the feedback was tremendous. “It had been a terrible time, and suddenly we had this bright light,” he adds, ” … something to get excited about!”
After working out the to-be-expected kinks that come with managing live streams from remote locations, Chefstreams launched in earnest with its membership model just last week, and they are booked with participating chefs well into 2021. Membership costs $165 per person per year, and each cooking class ticket is $15 with all ticket proceeds going directly to the chef. Classes, which take place every other Sunday, last about an hour-and-a-half, with 45 minutes devoted to the cooking lesson, and the rest of the time spent on a moderated question-and-answer period between chef and members while everyone enjoys their meal and a glass of wine. “It’s a really personal experience,” Nat explains. “The chefs are cooking from their home kitchens using the same equipment as members, and members get to learn techniques from James Beard Award-winning chefs.”
Previous Chefstreams chefs include Tony Galzin of Nicky’s Coal Fired in Nashville, TN; Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans, LA; Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri Café in Houston, TX; Irene Li of Mei Mei in Boston, MA; and Renee Erickson of Sea Creatures restaurants in Seattle, WA.
Future chefs include Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta’s Red Beard Restaurants, who this Sunday, November 1, will lead members in creating Salmon en Papillote with vegetables and salsa verde as well as warm banana pudding with meringue. Also on tap to lead future Chefstreams are Jon Yao of Kato Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA; Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon in Portland, OR; and Einat Admony of Balaboosta and Taim in New York, NY.
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Indeed, social dining clubs aren’t as popular as they once were, and travel is slightly more trepidatious as well — at least for now. Until we return to pre-pandemic-style living, enjoy an intimate experience with some of the nation’s top chefs from the comfort of home — and support small businesses in the process. And when we’re on the other side, look forward to stopping into any of these chefs’ restaurants and saying hello in person — after all, you’ve already broken bread together.
To learn more about Chefstreams, visit chefstreams.com.
All photography provided by Chefstreams.
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