Photo: Courtesy of MealTribes
Photo: Courtesy of MealTribes

MealTribes: Come, Eat and Sit Awhile

With the hustle and bustle of life, and the ominous presence of fast food joints, eating a meal and experiencing human connection can become difficult. MealTribes aims to change that eat-on-the-go mentality to eat-and-take-it-slow.

Cofounded by Jared Gold, Cammie Wolff, Marin Galvin and Dylan Nunn, MealTribes was created to bring people together around the dinner table, share food and engage in good conversation. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Gold over the phone and pick his brain about the dinner club.

OT: What inspired you to start MealTribes?
JG: I started it unofficially to scratch my own itch, and in October of last year, nobody really knew each other and I said “Hey, we’re all cool, we all should really enjoy getting to know each other and just have fun and maybe get some value in other ways down the road.” So, that went great, and we were like, “Okay, let’s do another one next month.” So, we did that and one of the attendees came up to me and was like, ” Hey Jared, I want in on what you are doing,” and I’m like, “Alright.” Then we started Facebook groups and met in early January. I decided, “You know what? I’m just going to quit my job.” So, I really wanted to pursue MealTribes, and I gave up a job at an awesome company, but I had to pull the trigger on this because I see a lot of potential in this thing.

OT: How many people usually attend a dinner?
JG: We used to really push on six to eight because that was the magic number, and I still think it is but we want to also allow for variety. We’ve had some dinners that were 10-12 people, and we’ve had some that are four or five.

OT: What are you looking for in attendees outside of them bringing something to the table?
JG: We intentionally made the wording on the website a little more self-selecting in the sense that ideally, we don’t get a bunch of narrow-minded people. In the interview process, it’s just a 10-minute call, and we like to experience people once, so we make sure it’s deliberate for them and to make sure the person is not insane.

OT: Have you ever turned anyone down?
JG: Oh, not yet. Yeah, knock on wood, I haven’t had to turn down anyone yet because it is kind of self-selecting.

OT: Are there any planned events scheduled at the potlucks?
JG: We want to ideally make it a framework where if the hosts are just testing the waters or they don’t know much about hosting people, there’s nothing wrong with making their space available and having people come and do the basics. We’re running a basics guide right now including topics of conversation people can start with or a theme. Are you familiar with the format while we’re on that topic?

OT: No, but indulge me.
JG: It’s a very basic framework that we ask people to follow. People arrive; we usually allow a 15 to 20-minute grace period. People mingle until everyone arrives and then they make their plate and sit down. Then you go around the circle for about 90 seconds and say who you are, rather than what you do. Then the host or hostess can choose their own theme or topic of conversation they want to bring up or they can choose from one of our topic ideas. Then at the very end, people can go around in circle and say what they are grateful for, what they’re working on, something [they want to] announce, etc.

OT: Do you send out the time and date day of? How does that work?
JG: If people get approved, I’ll send out an email. So, my cofounders and I pick the dates for the following month [during] the month before. Then we’ll send out those RSVP links, and we try to set up RSVP links at least a week in advance with all of the final details of location, hosts and any travel involved.

OT: You’ve got to give them some time to cook food, too.
JG: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]

For those interested in attending one of MealTribes’ potlucks, go to www.mealtribes.com.