Exclusive Culinary Experience ChefXChange Landing in Beirut this October

The food scene in Lebanon is getting its share of leverage from the digital world. You might recall my experience with Bibayti in the previous month, where an aspiring chef visited our home to prepare dinner for a group of friends we were entertaining. Bibayti is still in its pre-launch phase, as its website indicates, but its premise is implied by its slogan, “cooks and stories.”

Scan the global frontier, and you'll find a similar startup called ChefXChange, which debuted in London, Dubai, and Washington, D.C., early this year. ChefXChange was founded in 2014 by two friends and former MBA classmates, Karl Naim and Marc Washington, who conceived the idea at a home meal Naim was hosting for a circle of buddies.

Naim is a French-born Lebanese who earned an MSc in Economics & Finance from the Warwick School of Business. He met Washington, also a well-bred student with degrees from MIT and Stanford, while attending London Business School. The two resided for some time in Abu Dhabi, working as investment professionals, where they hashed out the self-described “Airbnb of food.”

ChefXChange co-founders Marc Washington (left) and Karl Naim
(photo credit: www.amexessentials.com/chefxchange)

I had the opportunity to sit down with Naim during his brief visit to Beirut last weekend. Having recently stepped down from an enviable private equity position at UBS in Geneva, Naim is dedicating himself exclusively to building up and expanding ChefXChange in the Middle East. His next stop? Beautiful Beirut.

In fact, you can already explore ChefXChange’s presence in Lebanon, currently represented by seven chefs in the ranks of amateur, apprentice and professional. The way it works, a “foodie” browses through different chef listings, perusing their posted menus, prices, and culinary credentials. 

The foodie then reaches out to the chef via the ChefXChange platform, requesting a reservation for a specified date and time. There is flexibility to fine-tune menu offerings, too, to make the experience as personal as possible. The chef is tasked with sourcing all ingredients, preparing the meal as agreed, and cleaning up his cooking station before heading out. 

A ChefXChange home chef. Photo credit: http://ishitaunblogged.com/

But ChefXChange is more than just a tool for harried professionals who can’t find time to cook. The unique selling point is the connection it fosters between chef and diner, an unparalleled occasion to meet the maker behind the meal and share in a delightful, enlightening exchange. Dining out, after all, will also land you a prepared meal, but you’ll rarely have license to engage in pleasant conversation with the guru behind it. ChefXChange breaks down that wall, literally bringing the chef into your kitchen and, if you will it, to your dining table.

Naim has high hopes for the Lebanese scene, which enjoys a deep-seated tradition of delicious food in addition to perhaps one of the world’s highest ratios of foodies per capita! Admittedly the culture in Beirut is distinct from those in its ChefXChange city peers, because cooking here is a matter of great pride and heightened sensitivity. 

Naim also expressed an intention to bring down the price point, ranging between USD 50 – 200 elsewhere and dictated uniquely by the chefs themselves.

An official launch date in Beirut has been set for October 1, and anyone interested in attending can freely contact me for more information. For my part, I’ll be test-driving ChefXChange in the coming weeks and look forward to revealing every compelling tidbit with you. Stay hungry!


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