Q&A: Tess Geer of Eatwith

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From the June 5, 2014 edition

Tess Geer has found the perfect way to marry her love of entertaining with her extensive knowledge of French cuisine, and you are personally invited.

As Columbus’ first Eatwith.com host, Geer brings the cuisine of the French countryside to Columbus, offering guests a seat at her personal dinner table and an evening of food, wine and conversation in her sprawling Westerville home.

I wanted to be a host after I experienced Eatwith myself. I have a home outside of Paris, and while I was staying there I participated in an Eatwith dinner. I loved everything about it. I’ve always been very good at party and event planning, and I thought Eatwith would be a great way to combine that skill set with my love of French cuisine and culture. I just love to entertain and feed people.

At first, Eatwith didn’t want me. When I first applied, I got turned down because the people at Eatwith didn’t think I’d be successful in Columbus. They told me that hosts who don’t live in tourist cities rarely book any dinners, and they were convinced it wouldn’t work in Columbus. I wanted to prove them wrong. I was so excited when I scheduled my first dinner, and the guests had a great time.

I was surprised at how rigorous the process of becoming a host was. When I first applied, I wasn’t expecting all the rounds of interviewing. I was interviewed on Skype, I had to give them a tour of my home and a proposed menu.

I love French cuisine because there is an emphasis on local, seasonal food. Because of the agrarian culture, there is a deep sense of pride in using artisanal ingredients and seasonal foods. French people are really connected to where their food comes from, and I want to help reconnect my dinner guests with their meals. I grow my own herbs, I use organic ingredients and I try to offer seasonal foods as well. I’m a proponent of the “slow food” movement, and I want to incorporate that into this venture.

French cuisine is more accessible than people think. There seems to be this stereotype that French food is inaccessible, and it keeps people from trying it. I like to prepare French bistro food, which is comparable to comfort food. It’s a rewarding experience to see the guests look at the recipes and realize they can prepare delicious French food as well. I like to think I’m a goodwill ambassador, who wants to debunk the stereotypes about French food and culture.

Columbus is a foodie town. I’ve travelled extensively, and Columbus is always right on trend with whatever is happening in the culinary world. I feel like we have some amazing chefs in Columbus doing some great things. People in Columbus appreciate great cuisine, we don’t just grill burgers every weekend.

I want this to feel like a family meal and be a learning experience. I just want to talk about French culture or history, and provide a great meal. I absolutely love living and being in France, and I wanted to share that with people in Columbus. I like sharing my kitchen, my home and my food with people, and as long as I break even, I’m happy.

Photo by Tim Johnson