So you go to someone's house you've never met before, and they serve you and a dozen strangers a delicious, gourmet meal at sunset on a beautiful summer's eve. To start, there's Limoncello cocktails and insalata caprese made with basil picked from the garden in which you're dining. This is followed by a main course of Porchetta – lovingly home butchered and roasted by the host – accompanied by leek bread pudding. The finale is lemon bar ice cream made using liquid nitrogen. 

This is not a pleasant dream nor a SciFi movie directed by Martha Stewart. This is the new social reality. The above was a dinner I attended that Toby Vanderbeek hosted in June using a new sharing economy service, Grubly, which matches chefs cooking in their own homes with willing diners nearby. Welcome to food and sociality in the 21th century made possible by technology and values that are making this the new normal.  

So how was the dinner, you ask? It was as fabulous as it sounds. Toby and his wife epitomized hospitality. The food was delicious. The people friendly. As I'm writing this, I'm forgetting why I go to restaurants. This is more fun. And you won't get the stink eye if you ask for the recipe. In fact, sharing food knowledge is part of the experience.

How is this possible? Well, the secret ingredient is community. Grubly is cultivating one that prizes real connection between people and food. As Toby's dinner demonstrated to me, this results in handcrafted, artisanal dinning experiences featuring the best local food prepared with pride by locals for other locals, not to mention new connections between neighbors.

And a meal like Toby's seems the norm rather than an exception. The artisanal quality of Grubly experience is underscored by the uniqueness of each meal. Instead of a restaurant that keeps the same name and menu day to day, each meal on the Grubly network is a one-time-only popup restaurant. None of these Grubly meals have been repeated so far – The World is Your Oyster, Ruby on Snails, Urban Barn Supper, Rashmi's Farm Fresh Simple Vegetarian Dinner, Chef Daniel Sudar's Trunk Show Dinner, and Ever Wonder What A Frutarian Eats for Lunch?

Imagine checking your smartphone for something to eat after work and being presented with the above curiousities available within the hour, within walking distance. This is the experience Grubly wants to give everyone, to make conviviality available on demand like a cloud service.

While still in the startup phase, Grubly has obviously been successful in bringing out their chef's creativity. And this community doesn't take itself too seriously judging from the meal names. What great meal is inside you waiting to be cooked? There's now an app for that. Make it happen on Grubly.

Neal Gorenflo


Neal Gorenflo | |

Neal Gorenflo is the co-founder and board president of Shareable, an award-winning nonprofit news, action network, and consultancy for the sharing transformation. An epiphany in 2004 inspired Neal to

Things I share: Time with friends and family, stories, laughs, books, tools, ideas, nature, resources, passions, my network.