Eat

This New Online Platform Lets You Interact Directly With Your Favorite Chefs

And support them through the pandemic.

demi community
Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

In a time where our relationships with our favorite restaurants, cafes, and bars look much different than they did a year ago, the need to get creative to maintain our connections to them is apparent. The restaurant industry has been hit extremely hard by COVID-19, as more than 100,000 restaurants in the U.S. have permanently closed since the start of the pandemic. As of late September, about one-third of New York City’s restaurants and half of its bars have closed

And while we can’t get the full experience of restaurant dining right now, the next best thing is reuniting with the chefs who make our favorite meals. The pandemic has transformed the need for virtual cooking classes, and new platforms like DEMI, which recently launched in October, 2020, aims to build community between chefs, restaurants and avid restaurant goers, are taking internet cooking to the next level.

“I think in many ways, when we talk about restaurants, we do talk a lot about food. But beyond food, there's also the people, the interaction, the community, the hustle and bustle, and the noise of it all. I just had this idea that what if we could take that and then bring it online?” Ian Moore, the founder of DEMI, told me by phone. 

Moore’s passion for cooking began when he was 18 years old, but when the pandemic hit, he knew he wanted to help restaurants stay afloat beyond ordering takeout. 

“That's kind of where DEMI was born. I was really into the notion that cooks and people in hospitality as a whole often have so many followers across their channels, but they're not really using that as a revenue stream. What if cooks could build communities where they just took that small percentage of their followers and were able to make some extra revenue that would go directly into their pockets to support the work they're doing?” he said. 

demi
IMAGE BY MAITANE ROMAGOSA FOR THRILLIST

In December 2020, DEMI rolled out Love Letters on the platform, allowing users to share messages of appreciation and favorite memories of their favorite restaurants, cafes, and bars worldwide. The latest additions to the platform are DEMI Communities, where you can literally text chefs around the world to ask for cooking tips and chat with others who share similar food and drink interests via WhatsApp. While you don’t need to live in the same city or even country as the host chef to join their community, Moore said there is a global roster of roughly 200 chefs that will host their own communities in the future. 

As of January 2021, there are four expert-led communities to choose from: Lucas Sin’s Chinese food and cooking community, Natasha Pickowicz’s pastry and baking community, Peoples Wine’s natural wine community, and Katie Parla’s Italian food and cooking community. Each community costs $10 a month and all of the money goes directly to each community host. 

In each community, participants are able to not only discuss recipes and get answers to quick questions, but also engage with others to recreate the feeling of actually hanging out in a physical restaurant.     

“I think what I love to see the most is people from all over the world connecting around not necessarily just a restaurant or a chef, but around the values and the vision that each restaurant or chef stands for,” Moore said. “Food is the perfect way to connect people. I think we live in a day and age where social media has promised to connect people, but if anything, it does a better job recently of polarizing us all. We’re putting food at the center of something and being able to see people connect over that and form real bonds and real relationships and just get excited and happy in what's otherwise been a pretty tough time.”

Although these connections are only happening over WhatsApp right now, Moore said there are plans in the future to develop a separate platform just for the communities, so keep up with updates on the website and DEMI’s Instagram

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Kristen Adaway is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her @kristenadaway
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