Take one professional or celebrity chef in a professional kitchen; mix with abundant fresh food ingredients, free flowing cocktails and wine; add equal parts men and women and let them marinate for the evening. This is Cristina Mucciardi’s recipe for CookandDate. And several times a month since 2008, she’s been turning out great results in Montreal. By next month (October 2010), she’ll be doing the same in Toronto and New York.
CookandDate has been covered frequently in the Montreal media since its inception so you can read about it in the traditional media for concept details. Or better still, if you are single, sign up for an event and become a member.
Cristina says, “Press is the one thing that has come really easily”. That’s because Cristina is an entrepreneur who’s found a sweet spot in the market. She created a concept that lines up precisely with her own sweet spot as a people connector and foodie. Growing up in a Montreal Italian family, she is passionate about gathering people around great food. And when it comes to CookandDate, her mission is to help men and women find their soul mates. That she takes it seriously is an understatement.
Cristina is radiant hosting a CookandDate event. Photo by John Kenney, The Montreal Gazette.
CookandDate defies classification as solely a cooking school, a dating service or a social club. That’s because it is all of these things combined in one. It’s way more than this too. As a by product of opening CookandDate, many opportunities arose for private parties (i.e. showers, birthday parties) and corporate events. In response, Cristina is splitting the company into two banners: CookandDate and CookandEtc. The later leaves her plenty of room to expand her offerings in response to the market.
Like many entrepreneurs I have interviewed, Cristina’s biggest failure/ biggest learning experience was getting burned with exorbitant web development costs early on. She says it was due to her lack of clarity on what she needed initially and her naiveté about IT. She’s fixed that now and while she’ll never be a techie, she knows who to work with and how to manage a project to keep a lid on costs.
Her new website will launch this week in sync with a special celebrity CookandDate hosted by Chuck Hughes of Chuck’s Day Off and Garde Manger fame. The new site’s database (3000+ and growing) allows those registered to view all CookandDate members and to see upcoming events. Those who attend an event get chatting privileges with all other members.
The upcoming openings in Toronto and New York keep Cristina awake a night simply because unlike Montreal, she doesn’t know the cities as well. While she will be present at all events, she won’t be living full-time in those cities to get a deep understanding of the culture. Cristina says,
I don’t know whether I need to run events at 9 p.m. in New York because they all work late but I will learn quickly!
This woman is smart and while she doesn’t like to fail, she will be nimble and adjust her concept to meet the needs of the promising markets in Toronto and New York.
When asked what she needs most right now, she says, “Access to large databases”. This could come from partnerships with companies that have a similar clientele.
It occurs to me as I write that I could talk to her about a CookandCoach! A couple of years ago I gave away a “coaching and chocolate chip cooking baking lesson” at a Christmas service exchange party I co-hosted. The recipient seemed to relish the combo so why not? It would be a like CookandDate meets Coach Buffet. It could fit under her CookandEtc banner, couldn’t it?
Well, I might be grasping here but Cristina is not. She’s got a formula that works and a niche that is all her own. It’s a nice place to be.