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Sep 20, 2007 07:08 AM

Cooking Clubs

A friend and I are writing a book about cooking clubs, groups of people that get together on a regular basis to cook, eat, drink, share recipes and food experiences, and have a good time together doing it all. We would like to share other people's experiences in the book. If you would like to share your stories, here are some questions we have:

• Where are you located?
• What is the make up of the group?
• Explain why you come together as a group
• How long has your group been meeting?
• How do you decide themes, or who will host a particular event?
• What do you enjoy most about your cooking club?
• What was your one favorite experience from cooking club?
• Does the group have a favorite chef or other food personality?
• What are some of the group’s favorite food writers or cookbooks?
• What type of cuisine is your group’s favorite to make?
• What is the most outrageous, or funny story that happened at a get together?
• Do people in the group socialize outside of cooking club?
• What is one word that best describes your group?
• Is there anything else you would like to share about your cooking club?

Thank you in advance for sharing your stories!

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  1. My friend and I started a cooking/movie club a little over a year ago in the Boston area. We call it the S&M club (and not THAT kind of S&M…it stands for Supper & Movie).

    To answer most of your questions:

    The group currently consists of 12 members that all live within a few miles of downtown Boston, with most members living in the Cambridge/Somerville area. Some past members have moved away from Boston (including the friend who founded the club with me), so I’ve replaced them with others to keep the group roughly the same size. Being 25 years old puts me at the median age, with members ranging from 23-28 years old.

    My friend and I first had the idea to start a monthly club while we were discussing a recent dinner party that we had attended. Being relatively young, we don’t belong to a social circle that regularly has dinner parties. So our conversation turned to a way to plan a monthly get-together centered on trying out new recipes and cooking techniques. We both also happen to be huge movie fans, and had just been discussing our obsession with Netflix, so we decided to add that into the mix.

    When we first began the club we invited only some of our close friends that we knew enjoyed cooking. But as time went on we began to invite other people that we have met who share the same love for food, cooking and movies. Many of us do socialize outside of the group. I have a connection to everyone in the group: some are co-workers, some ex-co-workers, some friends from home, some friends from college, and several friends of friends.

    We started the club in September of 2006, and have been meeting monthly ever since. At the end of each meeting we decide on a theme for the upcoming month and someone usually volunteers to host the evening. I keep a spreadsheet of all of our past themes, as well as ideas for future themes. Our past themes have included: Italian (The Godfather), Fall Harvest (Halloween), Greek (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Christmas Holiday (Christmas Vacation), Southern (Steel Magnolias), French (Amelie), Irish (In America), Indian (Kal Ho Naa Ho), Mexican (Real Women Have Curves), Spanish Tapas (Pan’s Labyrinth), Hawaiian (From Here to Eternity), Thai (The Beach).

    To plan the logistics of the dinner the host will send out an Evite on which members can RSVP and sign up to cook a specific part of the meal (main dish, side dishes, appetizers, desserts, drinks). The host usually decides on the movie, but will sometimes add a poll to the Evite to have members vote. The members usually prepare most of their dish ahead of time, and then put the finishing touches on once they arrive. Over wine/drinks and appetizers we discuss the food and recipes we used. Following that we all dig into the rest of the meal and move into the living room to watch the movie. Dessert is served during the movie.

    As to what I enjoy most about the club, I would have to say trying out different recipes or cuisines that I previously had no idea how to cook. I, along with most of the members, get really get into the themes too. For example, in preparation for Indian night I did a lot of web research on how to prepare traditional Indian dishes, went to an Indian market to purchase all the authentic ingredients (it’s a plus being in Boston and having access to stores like this), and then spent all day Sunday before the meeting preparing the dish. After all of the effort, it is really rewarding to make something that everyone enjoys. Also, I now know how to prepare several delicious Indian meals. I also enjoy watching my friends, some of which were previously not adventurous eaters, try out new things.

    When it comes to favorite cooks/cookbooks/TV personalities, I think everyone in the group has their own favorites. One member swears by Rachel Ray recipes, while others have very different tastes.

    Our group does not have a favorite type of food to make. Some of us really like a challenge, so we tend to favor the more ethnic themes. Others enjoy themes that are more familiar to them. We all really enjoyed the Thai and Spanish Tapas nights, as those were two of our best executed dinners.

    It’s tough to describe the group in one word, but if I had to choose it would be… lip-smacking :-)

    I didn’t get to all of the questions, but I hope my description helps. Please let me know if you would like any more info!

    1 Reply
    1. re: hollybee

      hollybee - Can I email you - I have a few more questions?

    2. I am the organizer of a dining group in Bloomington, IN. We are all ages, professions, sizes and so on. What binds us together is the love of good cooking and dining.

      We are 12 "regular" couple members and have several alternates who can fill in when someone cannot come to the dinner.

      In September we have a cocktail party that everyone attends and it moves around from house to house every year. After that we divide up into 4 couples at a dinner. The time slots are Oct/Nov, Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/June. Every couple has a chance to host and has a two month time slot to get their dinner or brunch or whatever organized. The hosts make up the menu and assign the recipes. There is a co-host at each dinner and that person is in charge of the main course usually, the host may opt to prepare it him/herself if it will not travel well. The host is in charge of selecting wines and drinks to go with the meal. In another group which we are a spin off of they used to divvy up the costs at the end of the meal. Our group has opted not to do so.

      I think we formed this group in 98 or 99. Members come and go. So the dynamic of the group changes annually. We do socialize out side of our scheduled meals. This year I decided in June we should have an end of the year party and decided to make it Asian themed and assigned no recipes just told people to bring what they felt like. We also had a celebrate a new deck and bon voyage party for members who were moving to San Francisco. If you e-mail me I can send you our groups guidelines.

      1. Hi Dinag723,

        I've filled in the answers to most of your questions beow. I love the idea of writing a book on cooking clubs!

        • Where are you located? boston, ma and surrounding areas
        • What is the make up of the group? 10-12 women, ages ranging from 25-40
        • Explain why you come together as a group - We came together after all expressing interest on a Cooking Light message board. We were interested in creating a cooking club as a way to expand our cooking knowlege/techniques, and meet others with the same goals.
        • How long has your group been meeting? We just had our three year anniverary!
        • How do you decide themes, or who will host a particular event? This has changed over the years, but currently we pick the next host at the end of the evening. It is usually based on schedules, more than anything. The host gets to pick the theme and the menu, which she sends around to members a couple weeks in advance.
        • What do you enjoy most about your cooking club? It has been a great opportunity to met new friends, and has also pushed me outside my comfort zone with recipes I've tried. When the host send out the menu it's a great chance to pick something I might not make on my own, and the group is always supportive, even if recipies come outless than perfect!
        • What was your one favorite experience from cooking club? Wow, it's hard to narrow it down to just one experience...I'd say it's the laughs we share each month. Without fail, some portion of every get together is comes down to reminiscing about the "experiences" over the years. One of the favorites is the month we did 'breakfast for dinner' and menu highlights included pink pancakes (we're still not sure what was in them) and so much bacon the the host's apartment smelled for weeks.
        • Does the group have a favorite chef or other food personality? No. We have such a range of cooking expertise in the group that we rarely get on the topic of food personalities. Most of our recipes come from Cooking Light, but occassionally the host will throw in some of her favories from other chefs.
        • What are some of the group’s favorite food writers or cookbooks? Again, this comes up less often, but we are big fans of Cooking Light and Gourmet.
        • What type of cuisine is your group’s favorite to make? In all of our years we've never actually redone a specific cuisine type. However, I'd say the most common tendency is to focus on seasonal cooking when putting together a menu.
        • What is the most outrageous, or funny story that happened at a get together? This probably dates back to our early meetings when we didn't have the best handle on how much we needed to cook. Without fail we had enough food for 3-4x as many people as were there. In Jan 2005 we decided on Soup/Salad as the theme, hoping to come up with a figure-friendly menu. In the end we ended up with so many courses that we had totally gorged ourselves and defeated the whole purpose. Luckily we've gotten more streamlined since then!
        • Do people in the group socialize outside of cooking club? Some of us do socialize outside of the group. Many of us did not know each other before the group formed, but we have added new members over the years who have often been friends of existing members.
        • What is one word that best describes your group? Silly
        • Is there anything else you would like to share about your cooking club? I could probably go on about the group for much longer, so please feel free to let me know if I can answer anything else!

        2 Replies
        1. re: italyinmind

          Hi italyinmind - would love to ask you more questions. Can I email you?

        2. I started a cooking club about 2 years ago, after watching the Food Network show on cooking clubs. I placed in ad in Craigslist and ended up with a great goup of people. Below are the answers to your questions.

          1. NYC
          2. Originally started with 6 diverse people. One person moved away and added 2 more people (adding to the diversity), total now is 7 people.
          3. We all love food, cooking and talking about it
          4. We celebrated our 2 year anniversary this past September
          5. We as a group decide on themes, though we recently made a "wish list" of things (foods/techniques) that we would like to try and will draw from that list. We all take turns hosting the events.
          6. I love the diversity of the group and we talk about everything, we typically start around 4:00 and don't end till past midnight, because we have such a good time.
          7. One of my favorite events was doing a Christmas cookie swap, we would bake and swap the cookies in 1 night. What a mess! Most of the kitchens that we cook in are very small since we live in NYC, it can be very challenging.
          8. We talk about everything related to food and cooking, nothing is off limits
          9.As a group we don't have a favorite, but all of us as individuals have favorites
          10.For one of the events we had planned a picnic, due to time constraints and location, each of us would bring a different picnic dish, and we would find a nice place at Bear Mountain to picnic and hike. It started raining on the way, and we ended up eating the food at Woodbury Common Outlet food court. Instead of hiking on Bear Mountain we shopped at Woodbury Common.
          11.Yes, we go out during restaurant week in NYC, farm dinners, movie and a dinner, etc
          13. I never imagined that I could start a cooking club with a bunch of strangers who only have food/cooking as a bond, which grew into a stronger bond of shared experiences.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jojocook

            Hi jojocook - can I email you with more questions?