In a sea of ads for rooms for rent, Shauna Bowens' and Nathan Thomas's ad is a deliciously quirky standout.
The couple recently posted an ad on Kijiji Saint John for a fully furnished room in their newly purchased west-side home.
But instead of showing photos of the home, which is being renovated, they posted nine magazine-worthy photos of everything from chicken wings to seafood salad to tomahawk steak.
"Live with a world-class chef who cooks for you!" the ad states. "Private master room on top floor with views in west Saint John ... in a fully furnished house for the right person who loves food."
The ad notes that all utilities are included in the $1,000 monthly rent, and they do mean all: the tenant would have "unlimited access to a stocked cabinet, along with professionally cooked meals on a daily basis."
In an interview, Thomas acknowledged the concept is unusual, but said it just made sense to him and his partner, Bowens.
Bowens is a trained chef who has worked in restaurants around the world. Thomas is a digital solutions manager with Compass, one of the world's largest food service providers.
The couple moved to Saint John from Toronto in March, with Bowens now working as a personal support worker and Thomas working from home.
Bowens will be making most of the meals, but they both love cooking and socializing and have cherished childhood memories of meals shared with family and friends.
Having the opportunity to pass that experience on to a tenant who might otherwise be living alone warms their hearts, Thomas said.
"It's one thing to have a place to live," he said.
"But to feel welcome, to feel taken care of, to have a stocked cabinet, that's a whole other level of experience that I think renters miss out on."
A la carte breakfasts, home-cooked dinners
The meal plan would feature an à la carte breakfast and a home-cooked dinner sourced from a variety of cuisines, everything from Louisiana-style Po' Boy sandwiches to Portuguese piri piri chicken to "comfort food" like chili and creamy, cheesy pasta.
"We'll find out the dietary needs and limitations they might have, and from there, we'll build a menu," Thomas said. "It would be customizable. … We are looking to give whoever stays with us an exchange in abundance, and the best way we know how to do that is with food."
The couple also loves baking, so treats like banana bread and Jamaican patties would make guest appearances, he said.
The tenant can choose to eat their meal in the privacy of their own room, take it to work with them, or join Thomas and Bowens at the dinner table.
"If they want to sit down and share their meal with us, they would have that option," Thomas said.
Pics of room coming soon
The next few weeks will be busy ones for Thomas and Bowens.
In addition to fielding rental applicants for an Aug. 1 move-in date, they're also in the midst of moving in to their new house, which is in the final stages of renovation.
When the renovations wrap up, Thomas said, he'll post photos of the actual room on the rental ad.
But the food pics will be staying.
The photos have already attracted quite a bit of attention and are a great visual sell for the unique opportunity the couple is offering.
"It's not for everybody," Thomas said. "But for the right person it's going to be a great way to save money, save time on running around buying groceries and a great way to enjoy food and company."
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