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Mystery Meet to Return…and Expand

Mystery Meet to Return…and Expand

by Seth Resler · June 27, 2012

In early 2010, I came up with a simple idea for an experiment: I wanted to know what would happen if you created a flash mob for foodies. I envisioned passionate diners descending on a restaurant unannounced to enjoy a great meal. Over the next few months, I refined the concept and launched it as Mystery Meet. Foodies would come together for a meal, but would not know where they were going until 24 hours in advance.

The History of Mystery Meet

Ten Tables Sign

Home of the first Mystery Meet

The good people at Ten Tables in Cambridge graciously agreed to let us host our first event there. I purposely launched it at a small restaurant so I wouldn’t be embarrassed if only a small group turned out. I hoped for ten people. Twice as many showed up. In fact, Mystery Meet grew way faster than I expected. Boston.com’s technology blog picked up on the project before we even launched. My dream was to one day be featured in The Boston Globe. I was astonished when The Globe’s Debra First called me after only three events. Other media outlets quickly followed.

There’s no doubt that Mystery Meet owes much of its success to Boston’s flourishing food blogging community. So many wonderful bloggers came out to our events and wrote about them in their blogs, and it spread the word.

Initially, Mystery Meet was an online experiment for me. I wanted to see if I could put all of the social media experience I had gained over the years into practice. Although I come from a background in the music industry, I chose to embrace the foodie community because I had seen how passionate foodies could be and I found it inspiring. My girlfriend at the time was a foodie, and together we had produced a huge competition among 30 restaurants in Providence, Rhode Island. So I knew how much foodies enjoy a great meal.

Yet to my surprise, Mystery Meet turned out to be far more social than I expected. At the Ten Tables event, we seated people in small groups. The attendees suggested we seat the guests together at one big table at future events so they could meet more people. At our second event at Myers + Chang, we did just that. At later events, I would have people switch seats halfway through the meal to meet even more people. To my surprise, Mystery Meet was not just about enjoying great food; it was was also about enjoying great company. I met dozens of wonderful people through Mystery Meet. It was not a singles event, or a business networking event. The conversation among our passionate guests always revolved around food.

Dining in the Dark

Dining in the Dark

David Goldstein of Boston Chocolate Tours approached me about hosting a Dining in the Dark event. It was a huge success, so over time I began to host other Mystery Meets with unusual themes, including flavor tripping, food trucks, Hell Night and a pig roast.

In the spring of 2011, I left Boston to return to California, where I grew up. My nephew was born a couple of years earlier, and I wanted to be closer to my family. I was very sad to leave behind the Mystery Meet community. For several months, I continued to produce the events from across the country with the help from Boston food bloggers like Glenn Carr and Katrin Aback of Wine Dine With Us, Jacki Morisi and Michelle Zippelli of Just Add Cheese, Bianca Garcia of Confessions of a Chocoholic and Christine Liu of The Discreet Hedonist. Even a non-blogger, Heather Brundage, hosted an event. But as I was starting a new life in the Bay Area, my time was stretched thin. Although I briefly flirted with the idea of launching a San Francisco chapter, I didn’t have the capacity. Mystery Meet had seemed to have run its course, and I stopped producing the Boston events.

The Reason for the Return

Two months ago, I was the victim of a violent crime which left me hospitalized for five days. Among my injuries was damage to my brachial plexus, the nerve network between my left shoulder and neck. As a result, my left arm and hand has been paralyzed. Although nobody can say for sure, it is possible that I may regain much of the use of my arm. The recovery, however, will be very slow; nerves heal at a rate of an inch per month. At the moment, my primary focus is on healing through physical therapy.

In the wake of events like this, it is only natural to reflect on your life and take stock of the things that are truly important to you. I knew that although I would have limited energy and abilities in the coming months, I would also have a lot of time on my hands. As I thought about what I enjoyed doing with my time, I came to a conclusion that surprised me: I missed Mystery Meet.

Foodies at Church

Foodies at Church

A number of factors led me to consider reviving the social dining group. At the end of 2011, Katrin of Wine Dine With Us authored a flattering post about how she missed Mystery Meet. This made me wonder if there were others who felt the same way. So this spring, I reached out to Jacki and Michelle of Just Add Cheese to see if they would host a dinner for me. They happily agreed. For me, the event set out to answer a big question: after a year of being dormant, were people in Boston still interested in attending Mystery Meets? The answer was a resounding yes. Jacki and Michelle hosted a very successful event at Church only a few days after I was released from the hospital.

But the fact that Mystery Meet could continue wasn’t enough. The question remained: Did I want to continue to work on Mystery Meet? Initially, I didn’t think so. After all, I thought I had done everything you could do with project, and that from here on out it would just be more of the same. Moreover, the sense of community had become my favorite part of the venture, and when I was producing events from across the country I wasn’t able to enjoy that aspect. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I still had lots of ideas I wanted to try, and Mystery Meet would be the perfect platform for these. So a week ago, with encouragement from my foodie brother-in-law, I sat down to dig the Mystery Meet website out of the mothballs.

Mystery Meet 2.0

As I have set out a vision for the revived Mystery Meet, one goal has emerged: this time around, I would like to focus even more on the community aspect of Mystery Meet. In particular, I want to find new ways to embrace the food blogging community that was so supportive of this project from the beginning. So here’s what you can expect as we begin to unroll Mystery Meet 2.0:

  • The Return of Boston Events. This fall, Boston Mystery Meets will return, hosted by local food bloggers. Although we won’t host as many events, we promise that they’ll continue to be a great time for food lovers to meet like-minded individuals.
  • Mystery Meet San Francisco. SF has too much culinary talent to pass up, so this fall, we’re also launching a Bay Area chapter of Mystery Meet.
  • The Mystery Meet Podcast. Given my history as a broadcaster, a podcast seemed like the perfect way to further support the work of local food bloggers. So later this summer, we’ll give bloggers the opportunity to dish about their favorite restaurants in audio interviews.

As I’ve returned to this venture, my excitement has grown. I am thrilled to be able to once again collaborate with all of the wonderful people I met in Boston, and I am looking forward to meeting new friends here in the Bay Area. If you are a food blogger or restaurant interested in either hosting an event or appearing on our podcast, please reach out to us. And if you’re a passionate foodie, sign up to get more details about upcoming events.

Thank you again to everyone who has supported Mystery Meet since its inception – you’ve made this a wonderful ride for me.

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Comments

  1. Dale says:

    Awesome! I’m looking forward to the Boston events.