There’s something really magical about gathering at the dinner table with your loved ones. Connecting over a meal, sharing stories, and forming a tighter bond. It’s an intrinsically human experience. But does that same magic happen when you gather with strangers? For Dana Marie Roquemore, creator of The Dinner Party Project, it does.
Based out of Orlando, Florida, The Dinner Party Project is an experience that gathers 8 strangers together for a four-course meal. You won’t know who will be joining or what’s on the menu when you sign up but you can always expect engaging conversation and an amazing culinary experience.
Working in events and styling since 2005, Dana hit a wall - she was burnt out. She quit her job and sublet her apartment before catching a plane to Australia and New Zealand. After her three month sabbatical, she returned to her hometown knowing she couldn’t go back to her previous job. When her friend asked her what brought her joy, Dana knew it had to involve food and connecting with people.
Below, Dana shares more on what inspired her to start The Dinner Party Project, what she loves most about her parties, and where she sees it going.
What inspired you to start The Dinner Party Project (TDPP)?
I really love eating and drinking—those are my top two talents. But I also love the magic that happens when you sit, slow down and gather around a dinner table.
At the time, I was in this weird place in my life and I needed an outlet for my creative energy. I lived in a really cool house that was like 100 years old and my dining room table could seat 8 people. So I thought to invite 7 “strangers” and have them over for dinner and drinks.
I emailed 75 friends and family about my idea, inviting them and their friends to my house. At first, it was just people I knew but after a few months, real strangers started coming to my parties.
TDPP has held events in beautiful homes and many local chefs have participated. How did you get people involved?
A lot of times, people come to a dinner, see what all goes on and then offer to host/cater. Or sometimes we meet people who know someone else who can help.
We have made a few connections through social media and our newsletter.
What’s your favorite thing about these dinners?
People coming together and sharing a meal with someone they maybe wouldn’t normally sit down with. A lot of times, people [who attend] walk away thinking, “This was more fun than I expected.”
Orlando is so full of amazing people. We have some of the most generous, kind, and creative people. I want these people to meet each other and I want to meet these people.
Are there any friendships you’ve made through TDPP?
I’ve met people [through TDPP] that have ended up in lasting friendships to this day. People that I now go on vacation with or regularly have dinner with. Someone I met through TDPP ended up being my roommate for a while.
TDPP is very community oriented. How does TDPP give back?
Through our partnership with Tito’s Vodka, we donate to local nonprofits as well as to Mission of Hope in Haiti. Our contribution goes towards feeding 116,000+ school kids in Haiti.
We also started a Pay It Forward initiative that gives guests the option to help cover some of the costs for someone that can’t go due to financial restrictions. We occasionally trade services with people. If someone can volunteer to help or photograph our event, they can attend a future dinner.
Do you see TDPP expanding to another city in the future?
We just did a retreat in Mexico City and that was so much fun. We were able to gather and cook dinner together in this house but also arrange culinary experiences at different restaurants around the city.
We also offer this option for private events like corporate retreats or girls' trips. So hopefully that’s a direction we can take TDPP.
I’m all about intentional gathering—here, there, everywhere.