NewGusto Is Like Couchsurfing for Dinner Plans

by Jason Wire Jan 7, 2012
A new website is turning your dining room into a pop-up restaurant.

Probably my favorite thing about couchsurfing–as with most of life in general–is the food. Whether I’m hosting or surfing, it always plays a big part of the experience, from cooking to eating out to sharing a bag of peanuts to just talking about what foods we love or hate back home or on the road. So it makes pretty good sense that there would come a day when in addition to CouchSurfing, you can DinnerSurf.

Introducing NewGusto, a new site that connects hungry travelers with happy dinner hosts around the world.

It goes something like this: you’ll find yourself in a foreign land filling up on way too much doner kebab, because getting the “sabor autentico” of the country is either too much for your wallet or every restaurant you come across seems to be serving up lackluster fare. This happened to me all the time in Europe: plenty of amazing street and ethnic food, but when it came to tasting the food that locals themselves grew up cherishing, restaurant selection fell quite short of what I could find in the refrigerators and kitchens of those who lived there. With NewGusto, the locals’ homes are the restaurant.

Like CouchSurfing, there’s a social networking component to NewGusto that allows Hosts and Guests to connect with one another beyond the dinner table interaction. Hopeful hosts can create a profile demonstrating their culinary skills and inclinations, and past guests can leave comments and ratings on their profiles for future guests to be aware of.

But unlike CouchSurfing, NewGusto doesn’t require that the dinner comes free. Any dinner host can decide whether they want to be paid for the food shopping before or when they meet their guests. Or, they can choose to cook for free.

Given the massive spike in popularity of cooking and culinary experiences, I can see this site–or another one like it–really taking off. It essentially allows anyone to become their own freelance chef and restaurant, and creates an intimate and unique experience for both the host and guest.

Last Thanksgiving, my girlfriend and I hosted over 25 people from over 10 different countries in a massive potluck meal. Yeah, we ate the cost of cleanup and a few supplies–but nothing’s ever come close to the experience of sharing a big ol’ meal with a room full of talkative, wandering strangers.

Right now, most of the hosts are in Italy–probably not a bad place to start. Plenty of Italian grandmothers out there, I’m sure, could find a place here.

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