Meals have traditionally been a time of relaxation, an opportunity to choose companions and chat, to recreate our humanity by interacting with others, to renew relationships .
Now that so many of us do not live at home or as part of a larger family unit, the habit of conversation combined with eating seems to be disappearing. We eat alone or at places, which sometimes do not even have chairs, so no relaxing. Needless to say, this plays havoc with our health.
Eating at restaurants, while enjoyable and sociable, is not always the answer. The quality of ingredients may not be up to scratch, nor will the best and freshest produce always be used. Oil is heated and reheated, salt is showered on, refrigeration and advance preparation is part of the business, all of which does little good. On top of that there is little choice for people with allergies or dietary restrictions.
Enter MealTango. The website in which lies the answer for those who love home-cooked food and crave company at the same time.
Launched on July 15, MealTango operates in eight countries. The brainchild of Pune-based Saket Khanna and Neeta Valecha, it provides an amazing array of choice to foodies and guests all over the world by reaching out to all those who love cooking and entertaining.
People who specialise in various cuisines, or who are good at turning out tasty, honest and simple food, can sign up as hosts and offer meals to local residents or tourists, all those who would like a taste of authentic home cooked food and are willing to pay for it.
Some of the hosts offer their own regional cuisine when they live in other states. For example there is Vaibhavi who makes the most wonderful Gujarati food in Pune. Not just the thali but a choice of snacks like Kutchi dabeli, Bhel puri, Chaat, sprouts, Dal Vada, and delicious “street food” in the hygienic safety of her home. This is a place to take guests without worrying about typhoid or other forms of retribution for tempting fate by eating at roadside eateries.
MealTango operates on the concept of Search, Select and Savour. The guest can select the city of choice and zero in on the host based on diet preferences or interests and the host profile. The site says it helps travellers and food aficionados experience culture through food.
The concept allows housewives to showcase their culinary skills and earn at the same time, with guests who appreciate the fact that the authentic meal has been made from scratch.
As safety and security is priority, both guests and hosts are verified. At present, there are 95 hosts on the rolls, with 75 in India alone. A typical Indian meal would cost the guest `600 and payments are made through a secured gateway.
To ensure quality is maintained, hosts are provided best hosting practices guidelines and can avail hy giene certification training. In case a guest is unhappy with the ambience or environment, they can return and request a refund.
In turn, hosts can view guest profiles and read reviews from fellow hosts.
BIRTH OF A CONCEPT
Whose idea was it?
Neeta: I went to the UK to join Saket after marriage. Suddenly, friends—both Indian and foreigners—wanted to come over for a traditional meal.Realising there are few options available today to have authentic food, I figured that a platform for people to dine at others’ homes, enjoy an authentic experience, and meet new and interesting people was missing. That’s how I came up with MealTango in India.
Are you great foodies?
Saket: Neeta is good at cooking and experimenting with new dishes. I thoroughly enjoy a well-made dish, though am reluctant when it comes to cleaning up.
The response so far?
Neeta: We were surprised at the number of people who wanted to be hosts as well as guests. We now have hosts in six countries, and new sign-ups from all over the world. The best part is that we screen all our hosts, and they all come from strong backgrounds, with varying interests.
What are future plans?
Saket: We have already received a warm response in India. We would like to make a splash in the international market, and are caught between London and LA. We would love to get suggestions on where next.
Take a dekko at MealTango. It is becoming the go to site for people who want a choice, for those who like home food, for tourists and travellers who want an authentic experience by meeting and talking with hospitable and interesting people over a meal and last but not least for those hosts who love cooking and sharing.