To Anne Boninsegna and Jen Lindsey, it was fairly obvious: At almost every party, guests invariably congregate in the kitchen.
So the two cooking enthusiasts hatched an idea: Create an experience where strangers can become friends, all taking part in the meal-making process while socializing over drinks. In the end, they sit down to the feast they helped create.
On Friday, July 12, Lindsey's and Boninsegna's vision will become reality when the two open their business, not surprisingly called The Kitchen, at 231 E. Livingston Ave. in German Village.
"The idea is we want people to feel as comfortable here as they would in a friend's kitchen," said Lindsey, who's in the culinary program at Columbus State Community College.
The Kitchen, originally to be called Kitchen 231, offers a participatory dining experience, in which 40 patrons will be grouped together at work stations, completing their piece of a four-course meal. Diners then eat their completed meals at long communal tables.
The entire process should take about three hours.
"It's supposed to be a fun, festive atmosphere, but kind of relaxed, too," Boninsegna said.
Their first theme dinner (at $65 each), based on the famous painting American Gothic, includes smoky tomato soup with candied bacon, sage-rubbed pork chops, skillet lima beans and buttermilk cake with blackberries for dessert. All dinners come with a cocktail, a snack and beverage pairings.
Lindsey said the meals are kept simple because of time, so people of all skill levels are welcome.
"We want to engage anybody with any spectrum of cooking interest and ability," she said.
The Kitchen, which takes over the 4,200-square-foot Video Central storefront, has been under construction since November. It was a big space that needed a lot of work, so Boninsegna and Lindsey tore down the plaster to expose the brick walls and ripped up the carpet to take advantage of the wooden floor, which had to be refurbished.
They knocked down a wall to create more openness and, to comply with city code, they installed additional fire buffering in the ceiling. In the meantime, they took down the original patterned tin ceiling, painted the tiles and reinstalled them.
"Part of the reason we thought this was so perfect for us is because it's so open," Boninsegna said.
To help finance the business, they launched a Kickstarter campaign, an Internet-based fundraising mechanism. They set a goal of $40,000 in 40 days but surpassed it, raising $45,000 from 309 backers in that timeframe.
Both said they were surprised by the outpouring of support, especially from strangers who didn't even live in town.
"It was a marketing tool we never could have expected," Boninsegna said.
Per the rules, project creators must offer an award, not a part of the company, to donors for helping make the venture successful.
Boninsegna and Lindsey said they will hold a party for backers later this month.
Boninsegna and Lindsey's friendship dates back almost 20 years. They found they had strong connection with food and began catering parties for friends in their neighborhood. Boninsegna worked for a local catering company. Each had taken a detour from the food world but now are fully committed to the Kitchen.
"It's a place where we not only combine our experiences but also our passions," Lindsey said. "If you could invent your dream job, this is it."
The Kitchen is open Tuesday through Sunday. Anyone can drop in for Taco Tuesdays, when the owners will make several variations of the popular dish, and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday, which starts the following week. The place also is open for large parties.
Reservations are required for the participatory dining and can be made at thekitchen231. com or by calling 614-225-8940.