All Ways to Shidduchim
Finding your soul mate, that ‘significant other’, has never been easy, and over the past few years, due to Covid 19, it has undoubtedly got even harder. But meeting is still possible. The key is to make time in a busy world, and this issue of The Uplift Magazine (issue 10) highlights what can be fulfilled in the fast lane of 2022.
Lockdown has seen a lot of mature relationships come to an end, and there are now increasing numbers of singles, aged from 30 to 70, all looking to meet the perfect partner.
Many have been drawn to the internet and there are various dating apps. However, most soon discover that people are rarely who they say they are, that photo editing is extremely common and that the internet is perhaps even less safe than meeting someone in a bar!
But there is one long-standing dating format that has succeeded in the past couple of years, adapting with ease to Covid times, and continues to provide a safe and reassuring means of meeting other people. It is Date on a Plate, run by well-known Jewish chef, Denise Phillips. She has been running cookery events for Jewish singles for over twenty years and the original format involved six men and six women meeting at Denise’s home in Northwood, London, on a Sunday night. They then had a one-hour cookery lesson, which helped to ‘break the ice’ as they chopped, mixed and stirred the pre-prepared ingredients. The continuous flow of cookery banter enabled the guests to relax, avoiding those awkward, shy or quiet moments that frequently occur when strangers meet for the first time. By 9 pm dinner was ready and the guests were sat around the dining table and enjoyed the food they had created. Usually, there was a theme, such as Trendy Tapas, or Gourmet Italian. After each course, the men moved round so that everyone had a chance to meet each other, and at the end of the evening a list of emails was exchanged in order to continue the dialogue.
The concept evolved as a result of her own experiences (mostly bad!) as a widow seeking a new partner and built upon her success as Britain’s leading Jewish cook, with her own cookery school.
And there have definitely been a lot of dating success stories, including her own. Denise met her current husband at one of her own events, and they recently celebrated their eighteenth wedding anniversary.
Clearly, with Covid, face-to-face cookery classes were not going to work, so Denise pivoted and recreated the format online via Zoom. There is now no cooking; instead, she curates evening Zoom events of six men and six women, who initially introduce themselves to the group before Denise puts pairs into a breakout room for six minutes for a private chat. This continues until they have rotated around and met all of the six opposite-gender guests.
Denise has discovered that one of the unexpected benefits of a Zoom Date on a Plate is that it can be truly international; there are fewer geographical barriers. She has had guests logging in from America, Israel and France, as well as Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester. Someone even logged in from a beach in The Bahamas! Covid has allowed many people to work from home permanently, and this has meant that long-distance relationships are now much easier. Relocating is more feasible. You can go and live with your newly found partner in Leeds or Canada and still keep your job!
The online format has worked especially well for those who live in the UK but away from London. They tend to know everyone in their local town and usually feel that they have exhausted local opportunities. The new online format can connect them with people from near and far, all from the comfort of their own home on a cold Sunday night.
Just this month, Denise found out that one guest from South Manchester has been dating a man from Essex since December. They have had lots of Zoom dinner dates, FaceTime calls and now face-to-face visits, but it all started with one six-minute chat.
In response to demand from her extensive database, Denise now runs Date on a Plate every week, but with separate events for the different age groups: 25–35, 30–40, 35–45, 40–50, 45–55, 50–60, 55–65 and 70 plus. In addition, she has returned to live face-to-face cookery events once a month, with Zoom events for the other three event nights in the month. Denise feels that one of the reasons for its success, compared to other singles’ events, is that ‘cooking together is fun and requires people to communicate and interact with others. The evening is fast paced and provides a structure to help with that first connection with a new person, and as they say, “The way to anyone’s heart is often through their stomach!” Real people talking and connecting is the vital ingredient, rather than the mechanistic tick-box process used by others. Very often those who start dating via my events are not those I would have necessarily put together.’
Check out our interview with Denise on our podcast. Subscribe to our youtube channel for more interesting interviews.
Denise Phillips is a chef and food writer and is the author of seven popular cookbooks, a number of weekly newspaper and magazine columns and owner of Denise’s Kitchen, ‘hands on’ cookery classes at her purpose-built kitchen workshop in Northwood, London She gives weekly classes on Facebook and Instagram Live and runs corporate and celebration events that use cooking to bring people together, improving working relationships and enhancing businesses.
For the past twenty years Denise has also run Date on a Plate, bringing women and men together via a cookery class and a meal, which has proved an excellent way for meeting new people and developing firm friendships and relationships!