I used to think of networking as a dirty word—something boring, awful, and limited to job-related conferences and awkward events. Then, I realized that networking is simply a way of connecting with people over a shared interest. And, if you haven’t noticed, my biggest interest is food.
I’ve found that it’s much easier (and more fun!) to meet new people by discussing restaurants, sharing cooking techniques, or just enjoying a delicious meal. So, if you’re a food lover looking to make some new friends or professional connections, here are a few easy ideas to get you started.
1. Social Dining Sites
If you love to try new restaurants, joining a social dining site is a great way to connect with others. Grubwithus and BlendAbout revolve around group dining experiences with people who share common interests—think yoga enthusiasts going out for a raw food dinner or fellow freelance writers dining on sushi. Having a meal with a bunch of folks who share not only your love for food, but other interests as well makes it easy to strike up conversations.
No matter where you live or what type of food you love the most, there’s a meet-up group for you. A quick search for the term “food” on Meetup.com will turn up tons of food-oriented friends, ranging from general food lovers to those with more specific interests (like the start-up cookout or the read’n’eat book club). Can’t find a meet-up with the focus you’re looking for? Start your own! Creating a group and hosting events will expand both your gastronomical and social horizons.
3. Cooking Classes
Whether you consider yourself an Iron Chef or don’t even know how to boil water, signing up for a cooking class can be a great way to meet fellow foodies. The class setting is inherently social, and everyone there will be eager to both learn and share what they know. So, as you’re mastering a technique for a perfect Pad Thai, you’ll also be forging social connections.
4. Wine, Cheese, or Chocolate Tastings
Food tasting events are an ideal way to mix and mingle. Check out specialty shops in your area—they often hold tastings, which are great for sampling products and connecting with fellow foodies. Since everyone is standing or walking around, you can act like you’re at a cocktail party.
Feeling shy? Ask the woman standing next to you what she thinks of the wine or the guy who’s doing the sampling questions about the Gruyère you’re nibbling on. And don’t feel intimidated if you don’t know a ton about food or wine—people love sharing tidbits of knowledge.
5. Food Shows and Festivals
Check out an upcoming food show or festival and embrace the opportunity to engage the vendors in conversation. Ask them about their ingredients, production process, or how they got started with their businesses. People are typically eager to talk about their passions, so not only will you have an enjoyable chat, but you may pick up some inspiration for starting your own business (or find a potential future employer!).
Do you have a food blog? If not, you should definitely consider starting one—blogging is the perfect excuse to reach out to fellow foodies. For example, you can interview a few local mixologists for a post about the most creative cocktails in your town. Or, you can connect with other food bloggers by asking them to write a guest post for your blog. They’ll be flattered, and you’ll have forged a new social connection.
7. Local Restaurants
The next time you’re grabbing a meal at your local cafe, chat up the people who work there or the regulars you see there often. If the owner’s around, ask how she got her business started. Ask your servers what their favorite dishes are. Even your daily routine of grabbing a cup of coffee from your local coffee shop can be a great opportunity to forge new relationships.
Satisfying meals and satisfying networking experiences can go hand and hand—if you keep your eyes open for fun opportunities. So, rethink networking! Well, except the basics: Asking questions, really listening to the answers, and following up afterward will help you establish social and professional ties that can ultimately lead to delicious rewards.
Looking for a new gig? Check out these food companies that are hiring now!