There are a couple different ideas about what a supper club is or should be. In the Midwest, a “supper club” is a particular kind of restaurant, a homestyle restaurant that serves food family style. In other places, “supper club” has come to be associated with “underground restaurants” or “guerrilla dining,” where word of mouth brings people to a pop-up restaurant serving dinner for just one night. Sometimes these dinners showcase the work of cooks who aren’t currently in a professional kitchen or who want to experiment with food that’s different than what gets served from their restaurant kitchens. Sometimes the cooks are talented amateurs with no professional training.
In other parts of the world, supper clubs are really taking off. They seem to value a balance between the “supper” and the “club,” aiming for good cuisine, fresh and well prepared, but giving equal attention to the social aspect of each dinner.
This idea resonates with me. My supper club has a relaxed, homey atmosphere with excellent and interesting food (if I do say so myself!). The mission is to have not only a great food selection, but the perfect mix of guests, where everyone gets to sit at the “chef’s table.”
So what’s it like to eat at a supper club? Each one is different, of course, but this is what mine is like:
Homestyle. There’s no professional waitstaff, so you may need to ask when you need butter or help yourself when you need more water. Everyone will sit together at the same table and pass dishes back and forth. Sometimes we have plated courses and sometimes we serve family style, but guests always take a little more active role than they’d have in a restaurant.
Drink selection. We serve water, wine, and coffee. Maybe an apéritif or digestif. A few kinds of tea, I guess, but you’re rolling the dice if you are hoping for tea. You are welcome to bring wine if you have a bottle you’d like to share.
Schedule. I ask my guests to come on time. Not early: I’ll still be hard at work–probably trying to find 30 seconds when I can put on a clean shirt. Not late: it’s hard to serve one or two guests who are out of sync with everybody else, eating appetizers while everybody else is starting on the entrée. On time.
Special diets. If you have special dietary requirements, get in touch before you buy a ticket. Seriously. Don’t spring an allergic or food intolerant guest on me at the last minute. I am happy to cook for anybody, even vegans (there, I said it!) and I love a challenge, but some menus just don’t lend themselves to different interpretations, especially at the last minute.
Tips and presents. Tips are a little weird. You’re in my house. But you can give me presents if you want to!
What to wear. Wear what you like. We all have to look at each other all night; wear something that you look good in. I will be wearing an apron. I look good in an apron.
Feedback. Give it to me! I want to hear what you think, whether it’s praise or a suggestion for improvement.