Airbnb has spent the last few years wanting to take over your entire vacation. What started as a short-term rental service has now expanded into “Experiences,” where tourists can join up with locals for things like walking tours, farmstays, and cooking classes. Now, to further cement Airbnb as your one-stop-shop for vacations (assuming you provide your own plane), the company is opening a contest in which the winners get a trip to Italy, and to cook with David Chang.
Airbnb is looking for the world’s 100 best home cooks, who will be “whisked away next summer to a UNESCO world heritage site in Pollenzo, where they will learn to refine their family recipes alongside a host of culinary experts, including Momofuku chef and founder, David Chang (and his mom, Sherri!) at Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNIGSSG).” In a press release, Chang said home cooking allows people to “break down cultural barriers,” and “I’m honored to join Airbnb in this search for the world’s best home cooks and I’m excited to support each of their culinary endeavors firsthand alongside one of the best home cooks I know — my mom.”
Thanks for your input on these food debates @Airbnb is searching for passionate home cooks that make recipes into the next big thing—go to https://t.co/8m4yqfgUHm. Mom+I will see you there #AirbnbPartner— Dave Chang (@davidchang) November 25, 2019
Applying for a spot involves writing a personal essay about the applicant’s passion for cooking and submitting a family recipe that presumably proves you are indeed an accomplished home cook, both of which Airbnb will be granted perpetual, worldwide rights to “transform, edit, modify, reproduce, distribute, sub-license, transmit, publish, communicate to the public, broadcast, perform, display, or otherwise use” any way they want even if you don’t win, so look forward to Nana’s beloved date cake recipe becoming #content. Winners will not only cook with Chang, they will also “attend at least one (1) entrepreneurship training” with Airbnb, and receive instruction on how to pair their cooking with their entrepreneurial skills so they can “turn their culinary passions into income.”
Airbnb is understandably popular: renting one is often cheaper than staying in a hotel, and it gives any vacation the veneer of authenticity. So the expansion into experiences designed to make a traveler feel like a local rather than a gawking tourist fits perfectly into the brand. But Airbnb has also been facing some controversy recently. Vice writer Allie Conti was recently contacted by the FBI after publishing a piece on her accidental discovery of a nationwide Airbnb scam, though the company has since promised to change its verification policies based on her reporting.
Airbnb also continues to face criticism for its hand in gentrification, making it easier for landlords to move long-term rentals to short-term rentals and contributing to rent hikes. Various state and city governments in the U.S. have attempted to put more regulations on services like Airbnb, and 10 European cities have asked the EU to further regulate Airbnb, after the European Court of Justice stated that Airbnb was a digital platform, not a lodging provider. So Airbnb is probably looking for more ways to make itself inextricable from the tourism market.
David Chang isn’t the only recent celebrity Airbnb partner. The company also recently launched a “nationwide search for America’s Biggest Planners.” Winners receive “an in-person lesson in spontaneity from Author, Activist, and Spontaneity Aficionado Busy Philipps.” According to an October report on The Information, the company’s “operating loss more than doubled in the first quarter to $306 million from the year-earlier period, previously undisclosed financial data shows, a result in part of a sharply increased investment in marketing.”
Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.