Delicious Experiences Redefines the Culinary Future, One Virtual Meal at a Time

by Kelsy Chauvin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday October 31, 2020

Chef Kenny Lao
Chef Kenny Lao  (Source:Delicious Experiences)

For Delicious Experiences, the possibilities for cooking, mixing, eating, and drinking entirely online are only just beginning.

Nearly eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, the physical world still remains mostly locked down. But the virtual world continues to open up. Founders Inbal Baum and Tal Ater launched their latest venture in August 2020 after a timely stroke of business savvy. The married duo saw their Delicious Israel food tour bookings plummet last spring once COVID-19 struck. Baum, who describes herself as "naturally extroverted," began considering her connections in the culinary world.

Chefs and mixologists she'd met through her tours, classes, and other gastronomical pursuits were suddenly under-employed. At the same time, friends and clients were still hungry for eating, learning, and fun, especially from the safety of home.

The pair started building Delicious Experiences, a platform to share live, private, virtual culinary and mixology workshops, each hosted by global experts. But not just any experts. In the first few weeks since launching, a scroll through the company's experiences reveals chefs from Michelin star restaurants, James Beard Award winners, renowned sommeliers and mixologists, bestselling cookbook authors, prominent influencers, authors and other culinary innovators.

Still, these hosts aren't on the program for their accomplishments alone.

"Yes, we have great chefs, because that's a big draw for people to have insider access to this high-caliber culinary expert," says Baum. "But more than that, we had to ask, 'Can this incredible chef also have fun with me?' We work with hosts who have really great teaching skills and who have really good people skills. Because ultimately, this is entertainment. People want to learn the skills, they want to learn things — but it's about an experience."

Workshops are mostly cooking- and mixology-focused, led by professionals acclaimed in their home towns and countries, be it Paris, Rome, Singapore, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, India, Greece, or beyond. Courses span broad topics like wine and food pairing or building a perfect weekend brunch, as well as specific skills like burger- or pasta-making, cake decorating, and making Southeast Asian—style rice noodles.

Food photography, culinary writing, home-bar essentials, and regional American menus also tantalize guests to cultivate their niche talents. Each host collaborates with Baum and the team to customize his or her workshop and to set a course price starting from $125 per workshop for two Zoom screens, with options to add screens for an extra fee.

Baum says that, so far, about 95 percent of customers purchase workshops as gifts, a true "win-win."

"Guests win because they found this incredible gift for their friend who loves food experiences, but can't be traveling, or can't be eating out now for safety reasons. Or they just want an incredible whiskey-tasting experience with someone across the world," she says. "And then the experts win because they're getting employment for something they love, and sharing their passion."

She adds that plenty of clients treat themselves to workshops, too, "Because everyone's cooking at home now, their skills are improving and they want to sharpen them. They want to learn new things," she says. "And ultimately, they want just to take a break from life."

Dinner and Drinks? Let a Queer Expert Take Charge
Andra "AJ" Johnson  (Source: Delicious Experiences)

Dinner and Drinks? Let a Queer Expert Take Charge

Baum says that diversity in both topics and hosts has come naturally, thanks to international collaborations. The first weeks in business built momentum, and brought a slew of talent and varied workshops, including classes taught by LGBTQ experts such as the upcoming "Dumpling Party" led by chef Kenny Lao.

Lao gained a dedicated following when he launched Rickshaw Dumpling Bar and food truck. His latest venture, Culinary Task Force, offers consulting services for restaurant development and business growth.

In his new workshop, Lao reveals trade secrets that will answer to pandemic-induced dumpling cravings. Better still, the chef believes the social element of group cooking across the Internet genuinely works well.

"I think that you can easily transfer the experience from real life into Zoom," says Lao. "Because you're touching the same physical things, and your teaching and learning. And when you're actually doing that shared experience of eating something or having the same physical experience as somebody on the other side of that screen, there is a connection that's made. I really love that aspect of it."

For Andra "AJ" Johnson, it's a joy to connect with people ready to dive deeper into the rich world of spirits and mixology. Johnson's expertise in bartending and hospitality has rightly earned her plenty of acclaim, and she admits that her friendly personality has helped her career reach new heights.

When the pandemic caused her Washington D.C. bar Serenata to first "pause," then reopen outdoor-only, then open indoor with limited capacity, she found herself teaching near-daily online cocktail-making classes as a "pandemic shift." It made perfect sense when a friend introduced Johnson to Baum to lead a Delicious Experiences course.

"The class that I'll teach is kind of a tour of Latin America, to work through how indigenous spirits have played a big role in the drinking culture of different places throughout South America," says Johnson, whose Serenata bar specializes in Latin food and drinks. "Something that I try to impart with all of my cocktails is telling the actual story of where the drink is from— using the right fruits, or finding fun peppers, things like that — adding those kinds of elements helps make [the drinks] authentically original."

Both Johnson and Lao say their workshops come with manageable ingredient lists and that they hope they'll convey translatable, enduring skills for each client.

Meanwhile, Baum is optimistic about Delicious Experiences continuing through and beyond the pandemic, possibly in the marketplace-style platform similar to Airbnb Experiences.

"Who knows what's coming six months, a year, or two years from now," says Baum. "But there's this aspect that the pandemic has opened up people. And even more so, it's opened up this new world of opportunity...It's been such a cool thing that we can help share passions. That's what will keep it engaging and fun." connection that's made. I really love that aspect of it."

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBTQ interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.