How an Orlando woman is using her dinner table to bring strangers together

Woman mixes love for people, hosting with Dinner Party Project

ORLANDO, Fla. – We've probably all at some point thrown a dinner party at home with friends and family. It's a great way to catch up with our loved ones and just enjoy time together -- especially nowadays, when technology takes up so much of our time.

One Orlando-area woman is doing it with complete strangers and says that for her, it has become a way of connecting humans.

"It's been pretty amazing. It's definitely been a ride," Dana Marie Roquemore said.

The idea of bringing strangers into your home is probably not something most would think of doing, but Roquemore said it has been a way for her to create magic while sharing her love for hosting.

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"You're really getting an intimate experience and an insight into other peoples' lives," Roquemore said.

In 2014, Roquemore created the Dinner Party Project, and held it initially with just friends, family and their friends.

"One of the reasons that I wanted to do this was to get people outside their own social circles -- just to kind of, like, broaden the ... reach and the diversity that we have in the city," Roquemore said.

It's in the intimate setting around her dining room table where she connects people from all walks of life. Roquemore said it's a place that gives people a chance to slow down from the day-to-day hustle and enjoy authentic conversation.

"It really is a lot about the community aspect and the connections, so when I hear people laughing around the dinner table, I think that that is one of my greatest rewards," Roquemore said.

For 14 years, Roquemore worked around the country organizing events. But she said it's at her Central Florida home where she realized her dinner table can get results within her community.

"There's things that are so rewarding. I think I've seen a lot of connections made, people have gotten jobs, people have gone on dates, people have gone on vacation together," Roquemore said.

Roquemore said it's also about having a meaningful connection with the people of Orlando.

"I love people's stories," she said. "I think that's really why I started the Dinner Party Project." 

The Dinner Party Project concept is a dinner for eight. Once you've booked a date online, Roquemore randomly picks seven people to come to her home.

The night out with strangers includes a craft cocktail prepared by Roquemore -- typically a Moscow mule, since it's her favorite -- a four-course meal cooked by a local chef, wine and coffee to end the night.

"I love the magic that happens around the dinner table. I've made some amazing friends and made amazing connections. Some of my closest friends now have been because of the dinner party project," Roquemore said.

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Sometimes there's that one person that talks the night away or the quiet person, so Roquemore, as the host, tries to keep the conversation flowing and balanced so everyone gets a chance to tell their stories.

Aside from the dinner for eight, Roquemore also hosts private events, like birthdays and corporate events.

The next Dinner Party Project is Feb. 19.

For more information about the project, click here.  

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