Growing up in a very rural part of New York State, Nat Gelb’s playwright parents instilled within him a deep passion for food. While meals were something cherished, it was all too often just Gelb and his parents enjoying the meal together themselves.
“With restaurants few and far between in this part of the state, the human element of connecting with others was missing,” said Gelb. With that in mind, once he moved to New York City, Gelb knew he wanted to do something to enhance the way people enjoy food together with others. Impassioned and emboldened, the start-up veteran created what he calls the “anti-exclusive” dining club now known as Tasting Collective.
Tasting Collective, which began in 2015, allows its members to have a more personal experience, dining with others they might have just met and allowing them to interact with the chef who has just made their meal. “It’s our hope that diners leave with a meaningful experience, a sense of connection,” explained Gelb.
“We are building connections for our members with restaurants and chefs.” The membership includes an annual fee allowing members to attend any of the events throughout the year, with a separate fee for the experience. Members are allowed to bring guests. Gelb says that after their very first event, they knew it had to be more personal.
Just before the pandemic, Tasting Collective was hitting its stride, gaining members and expanding into different markets. With a business model that relied on the ideals of personal, intimate experiences though, the Collective hit a big stumbling block and events came to a halt. While it’s back up and running again, Gelb said that they’ve had to make some transitions.
“When we first started, we were all about family style eating, where plates were shared and passed around,” he said. “Today we have to rely on individual plating, and members often request to sit separately with their party, away from the other diners. It’s hard for some restaurants to execute this, as we like to partner with smaller, chef-owned restaurants that don’t typically have a big staff.” The chefs close down their restaurants for the night, allowing Tasting Collective to have the entire space for the evening for a more intimate experience.
The pandemic effect doesn’t mean that Tasting Collective has any notion of slowing down. The club plans to expand to at least 30 cities by the end of next year. Gelb also has his sights set on eventually going international.
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