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Menu Next Door rekindles joy in sharing food with neighbours
Thanks to the immense success of companies like Uber and Airbnb, the sharing economy is on everyone’s lips these days. Having changed how we travel and get around, this collaborative approach to consumption is now in the process of reshaping the food industry.
With Menu Next Door, Brussels-based entrepreneur Nicolas Van Rymenant wants to revolutionise how we eat. But in a way, his project is less about revolutionising than finding an innovative take on an old idea: sharing food with your neighbours, something that many of our grandparents would have experienced as normal.
The idea for Menu Next Door was born when Van Rymenant visited his aunt in the United States around Thanksgiving. “I knew my aunt was an amazing cook, but I was surprised to see that she was basically cooking for her whole neighbourhood,” says the 30-year-old. “One neighbour after another dropped by to pick up a dish. What struck me the most was this strong sense of community.”
A few months later, Van Rymenant – who is not new to the start-up world, having co-founded three other companies before – launched the business. It’s a take-away concept of a different kind that allows anyone to sign up to offer their own home-cooked meal. Neighbours can then pre-order the food and pick it up themselves, adding a social component to the mix.
“When you pick up the food, the cook will normally invite you inside for a drink,” Van Rymenant says, “which not only allows you to have a look at their kitchen and put an end to potential hygiene concerns, but also gives you the chance to get to know them and ask questions.”
This human aspect satisfies two concerns at once: The consumer sees where the food they eat comes from, while getting to know their neighbours – something that’s become a lost art in today’s anonymous big cities.
Cooks vary from trained chefs like Eldar Kabiri, who has worked in the kitchens of several Parisian restaurants and shares his culinary creations on Instagram, to enthusiasts like Woo Kim, who just wants to introduce people to her native South Korean dishes, made the way her mother taught her.
The prices of three course menus range between €10 and €15, and cooks get rated on the website, just like Airbnb hosts.
“Menu Next Door is really adapted to today’s way of life”, says Harold Heine, a passionate hobby cook active in the community. “I have a lot of friends who don’t have the time to cook and eat properly, and this offers a healthy alternative for a reasonable price, while meeting new people. I really enjoy the direct feedback of the people who trust us.”
Photo courtesy Menu Next Door