Airbnb's New Cooking Experiences Section Will Change the Way You Eat Abroad

What's a good vacation without a once-in-a-lifetime meal?
italian chef making handmade pasta

When you travel, there are really only two things that you need to do: meet the locals and eat the food. If you miss out on seeing the Eiffel Tower, you can just look up photos on the internet. But no possible Google search can replicate the taste of an authentic French ratatouille. No WhatsApp chat can truly give you the full experience of a real-life conversation with someone who's lived years in the heart of Paris.

Well, starting this week, Airbnb wants to help slate great food and great company into your travel plans. With the introduction of Airbnb Cooking Experiences, it's easier than ever to connect with a talented local cook (and score a truly unique meal to boot).

Here's how it works: Scroll through listings, choose the one you want, and book it—just like you would a traditional Airbnb reservation. Currently, about 2,800 different experiences from more than 75 countries are available, and the company hopes to add more in the future. To help you customize your culinary adventure to your desires (and itinerary), you can filter by city, by cuisine, by date or time of day, by price, by dietary restrictions, and more.

Want to whip up mole with an indigenous cook in Mexico City? Go for it! Dream of hand-rolling pasta with an Italian grandma in Rome? That's on there, too. Would love nothing more than an evening of kabuki, sushi, and sake in the heart of Tokyo? Be Kaori's guest (like 400 others have done before).

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Some experiences are priced as low as $2 per person, while others—like a three-hour lunch in London with Prue Leith, the venerable British-South African restauranteur—can run hundreds of dollars.

To celebrate the platform's launch, Airbnb is teaming up with the University of Gastronomic Sciences to host a once-in-a-lifetime travel contest.

Between now and December 23, 2019, Airbnb users can nominate their favorite home chefs for a truly memorable trip. All they have to do is write a personal essay on "why the nominee's passion for cooking and their family recipe makes them the perfect fit." The top 100 entries will win a week-long trip to the University of Gastronomic Sciences's campus in Pollenzo. There, they'll participate in cooking seminars, meet with world-famous chefs (including David Chang, of Momofuku fame), and bask in the glory of the Northern Italian countryside. They'll also work on fine-tuning their family recipe, which will then be included in a future Airbnb-branded cookbook (set to hit shelves some time in 2020).

As for why a travel-booking platform is breaking into the food space, Brian Chesky, Airbnb's founder and CEO, says, "Sharing a meal is the key that unlocks culture and fosters connection."

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Ari Notis
Ari is a senior editor, specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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