Jay Savsani

Providing an opportunity for tourists to have a more personal and less touristy meal during their travels, Jay Savsani ’07 (Marketing) and his extraordinary team developed mealsharing.org as a means to bring tourists and locals together over home-cooked meals. Not only does this provide travelers with an intricate look at the culture and lifestyle of the places they are traveling, but it also affords locals a chance to share their traditions and knowledge with guests from all over the world. “Our mission is really to build communities,” explains Jay. “If we can encourage a deeper cultural conversation and a more personal look at the philosophies and customs of the countless amazing destinations around the world, we can build a better travel experience.”

Jay’s idea began on a backpacking trip to Cambodia with his cousin. “I thought, ‘I didn’t travel all the way across the world to eat a hamburger and not connect with the people’,” he said. “I grew up in an Indian family where we love food and have an ‘invite everyone to dinner’ attitude.” So on a whim, he asked employees at the front desk of his hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where the locals ate and asked if they would help him find a home-cooked meal. The staff found 15 people on the street and in the lobby and asked who would invite Jay over for dinner – and the locals began to fight over who would enjoy this traveler’s company.

“There was this reciprocal curiosity,” Jay explains. “I found myself an hour in the countryside having a meal with a family – a man, his wife, his kids, his best friend. We talked about everything; their culture, American culture. It really brought us together. When I came back to Chicago, I gathered up a team to create Meal Sharing so people can explore the world through food and discussion.” Part of building a successful company was researching and developing a comprehensive experience. After much time spent coding and designing, Jay asked his team to take a break with him and go really learn what meal sharing was all about. Together, they took a month-long road trip across the United States, eating only through Meal Sharing.

Now, Meal Sharing exists in 450 cities worldwide. The founder of OpenTable is an investor in the company. Through his company, Jay has been able to travel the world and has become a thought leader in the space. He was invited to give a speech at the British Parliament, and was also invited to the United Nations to work on solving current global issues. “Our next goal is to really make it so that people can point to anywhere on the map and be welcomed to a home-cooked meal. We are constantly looking to grow,” says Jason. “When I transferred to Lewis, I was looking for a more personal experience. All of the professors, especially Robert Bergman and Arthur Regal, were very inspirational and did a great job of preparing students to explore. They set a good foundation to grow, and it was my time at Lewis that led me on the path to where I am today.”


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