Imagine hosting a dinner party in your own home without having to cook, do the dishes or pay a small fortune for a private chef. This is Gathar, which is being described by its creators as the Airbnb of dinner parties.
Cairns residents Jodie Mlikota and Nicky Jurd launched the business in their hometown in September after six months of testing. The success of the venture has prompted them to expand into different parts of Australia, starting with Brisbane last month.
Mlikota says it made sense for Gathar to start its expansion in the state capital. “I think sometimes people don’t give Brissie the credit it deserves,” she says. “It has a really booming cultural and food scene, with some great chefs and cooks doing a lot of cool things.”
The concept of Gathar is simple: match people who love to cook with those who love to entertain. Mlikota says the idea stemmed from her own frustrations when hosting friends for dinner. “I would run around all night and not get a chance to sit down and enjoy it,” she says. “I would get to the end of the evening and not have connected with any of the people I wanted to catch up with.”
Mlikota took the concept to Jurd, a friend of a friend, who is an avid cook. “She and her husband were Airbnb’ing their house and had already been thinking of a similar thing, but from a chef’s perspective,” she says. “So we decided to partner up.”
Fourteen Brisbane chefs, or “culinarians”, are already part of the Gathar family. Mlikota says they’re encouraged to put two or three menus online at different pricepoints. Would-be dinner hosts then scroll through the website and book in the one they want. The platform is free for chefs and cooks to use, with Gathar taking a 15 per cent fee from every booking.
While anyone can apply, they have to have food safety handling qualifications and industry experience. “They need to be cooking already in some capacity and doing more than preparing meals for their immediate family,” Mlikota says.
Chris Siktars was one of the first Brisbane chefs to sign up to Gathar. Siktars says he joined the platform because it shared a similar ethos to his pop-up restaurant business, Black Ox Dining. “The focus is on people coming together to share in their love of good food and wine,” he says. “Coming on board with another small business in this space was a given.”
Cuisines on offer in Brisbane include Jamaican, Italian, Mexican, modern Australian, Croatian and Persian.
“It’s about being able to showcase dishes that people may not have tried,” Mlikota says. “Our culinarians don’t necessarily want to start their own restaurant, but they enjoy cooking food for others to enjoy.”
Menus range in price from $55 to $140 per person for a minimum of six people, with guests able to pay for their portion through the website ahead of time. Gathar has also expanded to include grazing tables. “It wasn’t originally our intention, but people kept asking for it,” Mlikota says.
The next stops on the Gathar expansion trail are the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, before Mlikota and Jurd head south to Byron Bay. “We will be in Sydney or Melbourne this year and we’d like to start going international next year,” Mlikota says. “There’s no reason why we can’t have cooks in Hawaii preparing meals for people.”