The Collegian
Thursday, December 08, 2022

UR alum’s culinary nonprofit spotlights local talent

<p>Christina Chen, '21, founder of FoodiePath. Photo courtesy of Chen.</p>

Christina Chen, '21, founder of FoodiePath. Photo courtesy of Chen.

On any given weekend in Richmond, FoodiePath.com users can take a dog treat baking class or learn to carve their own wooden jam spreader.

This diversity of offerings was exactly what founder Christina Chen, ‘21, envisioned when she began to develop the idea for the platform in entrepreneurship professor Ali Barta’s New Venture Creation course during her senior year. She created FoodiePath, an online platform where users can book specialized culinary experiences with independent hosts who represent a wide range of cultures and culinary traditions.

“We encourage people to show our guests the most unique side of themselves, and food is an avenue for them to share their stories,” Chen said. 

The ‘Butter and Jam Spreader Carving with Zachary’ experience, for instance, represents lessons learned in the host’s rural Vermont childhood, Chen said. Another FoodiePath experience, ‘Bake Innovative Desserts with Alex,” is hosted by Alexandria Davis, who is half-Taiwanese. Some of the pastries that she creates are of Taiwanese origin. 

“She picked both of her identities to bring a mixed bakery that you couldn’t find elsewhere in Richmond,” Chen said.

This idea of interpersonal connection has always been central to FoodiePath’s mission. Chen belief in the power of food to foster relationships long predates the platform’s June launch, she said. 

“I feel like food has been the best way for me to make connections with people,” Chen said. 

This philosophy was the basis of FoodiePath. 

“Christina has a genuine passion for bringing people together and solving challenges,” Barta wrote in an email to The Collegian. “Her enthusiasm for FoodiePath is contagious and I have no doubt that with her customer-first approach and persistence, she’s onto something.” 

FoodiePath is becoming more focused than ever on its customers and hosts. In August, the platform pivoted to a nonprofit model, squaring their focus on increasing exposure for the hosts who offer experiences on FoodiePath and the culinary traditions they specialize in.

One such host, Davis, who teaches the “Bake Innovative Desserts with Alex” course as well as a dog treat baking class, said she met Chen while selling her baked goods at a farmer’s market, and the two bonded over discussion of Davis’s products. Chen told her about FoodiePath and suggested that she join the platform as a host. Soon after, Davis started offering baking classes for the first time.  

“I love to be able to promote my baking class,” Davis said. “Like, not only are people tasting my stuff, but they also can sign up for a class and learn how to do it themselves. It’s a great way for people to have a weekend with their kids and family bonding.” 

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As Tiny Vines expands to include baking classes, FoodiePath, too, is making changes. The Richmond-based platform recently expanded to include experiences located in New York City, where Chen will begin graduate school at Columbia University in the spring. Though her focus is now split between both cities, Richmond still holds a special place in Chen’s heart, and she has no plans to leave the city’s culinary scene behind as FoodiePath grows.

“Right now, we’re focusing on getting more hosts and guests in New York and maintaining what’s going on in Richmond,” she said. “We’re very excited to get one hundred hosts on our platform by the end of this year.”

Contact lifestyle writer Kelsey McCabe at kelsey.mccabe@richmond.edu.

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