From Kathryn Ciano. Follow her on TwitterÂ @katciano.Â Email her atÂ Â kathryn[AT]borderstan.com
DC has become a major food city. Within a one mile radius you can get pizza in various stages of preparedness, at least 22 types of mussels, and beer â€”Â goodness, so much beer. But what if you want to save money, eat healthier and learn to cook for yourself?
Enter Sarah Waybright, entrepreneur extraordinaire, walking New Year’s resolution and, hands-down, the coolest girl who ever made me a massaged kale salad. Ah, Sarahâ€™s massaged kale salad â€”Â but thatâ€™s a story for another day and another book of sonnets.
The idea behind WhyFoodWorks is simple. Sarah comes to your kitchen and makes you dinner â€”Â not like a personal chef, but like a personal nutritionist, ready to explain exactly what food you need and how to prepare it, all in the course of a dinner party.
I sat down with Sarah to talk about her blog, her business and her relationship with the Borderstan community.
Borderstan: So explain exactly how this dinner party idea works.
Waybright: I provide a healthy, delicious effort-free dinner party. I bring the ingredients, the food, the pans and blender, the silverware,Â placemats, Â EVERYTHING â€” all I need is your stove and sometimes a microwave. All you have to do is invite your friends. I even take the dirty stuff home with me, so there’s no clean up for you, which is unarguably the worst part of hosting.
Parties are for four to eight people; thatâ€™s the best size for good conversation and it lets me talk to everybody and answer their questions. And thatâ€™s what youâ€™d plan anyway for a dinner party, to get the right vibe.
Borderstan: What kinds of food do you cook?
Waybright: I always have five menus available for selection. One of them will rotate monthly and the others seasonally. You can choose whichever menu you want. There are already a couple of dietary considerations taken in â€”Â one menu is vegetarian, one is gluten-free, one is dairy-free, but I can also take into account allergies and intolerances â€”Â I can replace items without compromising nutritional integrity.
The key is that Iâ€™m offering healthy options I know are delicious and that I know I can teach you to make well for yourself.
Borderstan: How did you get started on this?
Waybright:Â Iâ€™ve been doing dinner parties since college. I grew up on a dairy farm, as part of a big family, so Iâ€™ve always had people over, with lots of focus on good conversation and good food. In college I wasnâ€™t thinking about nutrition as much as whether the food looked and tasted nice. Since doing my Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, I can make things delicious and beautiful, and also a meal thatâ€™s actually good for you.
When I first considered launching the business, I looked to see whether anything like this already exists. I found personal chefs and meal services, but NO ONE else is teaching home cooking with a focus on health IN private homes.
I want to teach people to do things that theyâ€™ll actually use again. Hiring a professional chef doesnâ€™t teach you how to cook for yourself. Youâ€™re probably not going to make fancy food on a regular basis, and some chefs charge so much. One I found in the DC area costs $500 for a two-person in-home class. I want to reach out to people who arenâ€™t part of this elite group that can spend $500 on a chef for the night. Cooking doesnâ€™t have to be hard or expensive. Fresh, simple, and cheap ingredients can be delicious if you know what you’re doing.
Borderstan: Tell me more about this cheap, healthy food.
Waybright:Â For parties I keep things at a price thatâ€™s reasonable for what you expect to spend eating out at a nice restaurant. Iâ€™ll even do wine pairings, for an additional $8/person, which includes two glasses of wine per person, plus education about wine and nutrition.
The food will be delicious. It will feature techniques anyone can do, and youâ€™ll have an opportunity to ask whatever questions you want. Iâ€™m a nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian (RD). It doesn’t take much to call yourself a “nutritionist,” but RD’s all have at least a Bachelor’s degree in the subject, have completed an internship, and passed a standardized national exam.
Borderstan: Whatâ€™s your philosophy on food?
Waybright:Â Iâ€™ve boiled down my eating concept into a few basic principles. Any diet works â€”Â paleo, vegetarian, whatever â€”Â as long as youâ€™re applying these principles. When I do parties, the point is to show people how easy it is to apply these principles to every meal.
A lot of times people think about food like there are â€śgood foodsâ€ť and â€śbad foods,â€ť like cookies are off-limits and everything else is okay. But thatâ€™s just not true; itâ€™s all about amounts. At dinner parties I talk a lot about food pairings â€”Â what foods work best toÂ maximizeÂ nutrition together. For example, my February menu includes bacon, but I serve it with an oat risotto, and the fiber from the oats prevents absorption of all of the cholesterol in the bacon.
Itâ€™s important to appreciate how our bodies process food. People know that eating a high-fiber diet is good for their cholesterol levels, but they donâ€™t know why. At the end of a dinner party, I donâ€™t want people to be focusing on their colon necessarily. Intestines aren’t very sexy. But if they never think about their colon, then this can be that special opportunity.
Borderstan: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Borderstan and the community?
Waybright:Â This is a 100 percent woman-owned business â€”Â itâ€™s just me. I live in northern Borderstan, and Iâ€™m constantly out and about around here â€”Â I bought a brick at Saloon, to support their efforts to build schools in impoverished places, and I work at the Columbia Heights Farmer’s Market.Â I really believe in community. Iâ€™m hoping this business spreads mostly by word of mouth. The blog is to get awareness out there and really develop a community base, and the website gives more info about how to book a dinner party.
One of my goals is to do a 10-to-1 ratio: For every 10 parties I book, Iâ€™ll do one for a population that canâ€™t afford a party or education about nutrition, or donate a party for a charity. Â My first donated party will be auctioned off at the Chris4Life Eat4Life Celebrity Chef Cook-Off on March 19. And I work with ScratchDC; they take the leg work out of from-scratch meals and deliver them to your door, and its customers get a discount for my parties, too.
I also want to build loyalty into my plan. Hosts of a dinner party get 50 percent off, then if that person hosts a second party they get 75 percent off, and the third party for the same host will be free. If a guest tells someone else about it, all of that personâ€™s guests will get $5 off.
The feedback from parties so far has been FANTASTIC. I loved working with the guests, and I think they felt the same way. Some of what they said were the â€śbestâ€ť parts really surprised me â€”Â like after dessert, we all sat around and talked nutrition. I wasnâ€™t even thinking of that as part of the experience, but that was something everyone commented on as being so valuable. I love doing this, and I just canâ€™t wait to do more.
To schedule a dinner party, please fill out the form here, or contact Sarah atÂ 202-505-2396 or sarah[AT]whyfoodworks.com. Find FoodWorks on Facebook atÂ WhyFoodWorks,Â â€¨Twitter atÂ WhyFoodWorksÂ andPinterest atÂ WhyFoodWorks.