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Have you heard of persons inviting people to their home for a gourmet meal with a charge? [moved from Miami - Ft Lauderdale board]

I heard on the radio that some people are making gourmet meals in their homes. Inviting friends and charging them. The premise is that why go to a restaurant with strangers when someone you know can make a great meal and charge less. Anyone out there doing it or heard how it works?

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  1. Broward New Times' Clean Plate Charlie did a couple pieces on this last month ->


    2 Replies
    1. re: Frodnesor

      I would actually guess that either Charlie who you heard on the radio, since he was just on Paul and Ron talking about this.


      1. re: talos126

        I've experienced this in Costa Rica about 7 years ago. An American couple on a tight budget would invite people once a week to have a full meal in their home. The couple were fairly well known for doing this.

        I've seen this subject crop up a few times. Here's some articles touching on the subject. There's a book on it too.
        I've also heard of people getting together in kitchens to cook off a bunch of food to share so they can stock their freezers for the month. They rotate the kitchens and make a party out of it. I've thought of doing that myself.



    2. There's a restaurant in Coral Gables, Charlotte Bistro, who's owner worked in some of the best restaurants in Lyon. She's not doing it now, but she received much acclaim in Venezuela for her restaurant in her house "Cantalamesa" She may have ideas to do something similar in the near future.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Icantread

        I've been to Charlotte Bistro and it was good but no salt on the food. I don't particularly need a lot of salt but when there's none the flavors don't come out as well.

        1. re: ThereseTheFoodie

          I'm not charging any of my friends to come over and eat....Afterall...I invited them....but if they'd like to bring a very nice bottle of wine.....Some new and interesting beer.....Some old and interesting beer.....They're hihgly encouraged to do so....and contribute to the overall experience.....:)


      2. The concept sounds like the paladares in Cuba. Might be worthwhile for a good ropa vieja or braised lamb shank.

        1. Seems kind of tacky to me. It's generally proper etiquette to bring desert or a bottle of wine. Though I could never imagine inviting friends over for dinner and charging them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: coffeyucf

            Ooohh. I missed the word "friends" and only noticed "persons" as in customers. +1 on tacky.

          2. Here's 122 posts on a related subject. YOU figure out what the consensus was :)


            1. If you're charging, it's a business transaction. I think what you've been hearing about has less to do with feeding friends and more to do with temporarily turning a home into an underground restaurant.

              Of course, if your friends want to come to your restaurant (whether it's in your home or in a more conventional setting), there's nothing wrong with that. Just so long as everybody understands it's not a social occasion, there shouldn't be any confusion or difficulty (except maybe with the local authorities).

              5 Replies
              1. re: alanbarnes

                Right Alan, I heard about these "underground restaurants" and wanted to learn more about the concept. I have never charged my guests for eating at my house. I do love cooking and am intrigued by the whole concept of opening the house to paying patrons. It's worth thinking about.

                1. re: ThereseTheFoodie

                  I'm not a paranoid but I'd hesitate to do it because of the risk of running afoul of the law. All it takes is one disgruntled neighbor looking for a parking space.

                  1. re: ThereseTheFoodie

                    Simple enough. Put out the word that you're doing an underground restaurant thing, reservations mandatory. Get an email list of people who are interested, then let them know what nights you're open, the time and number of seatings, and what the price will be. Probably a good idea to send a menu, too. Then set up as many tables as you can fit into your living room and see who responds.

                    Best make it BYO, though. The health department will not be amused if they find about about the unpermitted kitchen, but Alcoholic Beverage Control will descend like the wrath of God if you're serving wine without a license.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Bourdain's show on the Pacific NW did a segment on this. Several chefs contribute and they ask for donations rather than charge a set price. They also move to a different location so as to stay 1 step ahead of the health dept. Sounded fascinationg to me but it seemed to also be a fairly exclusive group to break into.

                      1. re: nvcook

                        I've read about these underground restaurants, and one magazine wrote how to get in touch with one. I did and was questioned as to how I heard about them. lol
                        They said they would add me to a mailing list to let me know of upcoming dinners, but I have yet to get an email. That was about 2 years ago.

                2. I have heard of this; big topic on the manners/etiquette boards as a solid DON'T. Also, running a restaurant without an inspection or business license is also a DON'T. There was another post (now closed) from someone who wanted to throw a party that he had previously funded, but now wanted to charge people for. The quite correct consensus was no, that wouldn' go.

                  There a cooking clubs, though, where one family prepares a dinner, then someone else gets a turn next week or month, and another kind where everyone brings a gourmet dish.

                  Usually, if you entertain, it's on your dime. You aren't "inviting" friends, you are selling your customers food.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: KSyrahSyrah

                    But "selling your customers food" is precisely the purpose of underground restaurants. And the OP has clarified she's talking about that, not a dinner party where you nick your guests for contributions.

                    In that context, it's not rude to charge your guests. Illegal, yes, but perfectly polite.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Yep but.... OP is talking about inviting and charging "friends" not the subterranean public. Hair splitting but....

                      1. re: c oliver

                        It was originially ambiguous, but she clarified that she was talking about underground restaurants.


                        Presumably one's friends would be among the first customers, but so long as everybody understands it's a commercial transaction, there's no faux pas.

                    2. re: KSyrahSyrah

                      The OP isn't talking about charging her friends for food - she's describing the underground restaurant movement, which I understand to be very active in larger cities.

                    3. It's a quite popular idea in, um, less litigious societies than the US... The Shy Chef in Berlin comes to mind, who hosts dinners each w/end serving 5 courses and wine, coffee, etc. for a prix fixe. I'm just about ready to make a rez.


                      1. Actually, if anyone knows of any underground dining in the Richmond, VA, area, could you let me know? jeanmarieok@hotmail.com

                        I would love the opportunity to participate.

                        A friend of mine in Chicago has been to a few dinners, and has really enjoyed herself.

                        1. Ick. I don't like the idea. One of two things needs to change to make this appropriate for me: either they are not my friends, rather a chef whose home I would be dining in and willing to pay for. Or I call it pot luck and do not have to pay for all the food myself. If I am truly inviting friends over in a more elegant setting, no way I ask them to pay their way (however, I would appreciate a hostess' gift, bottle of wine, or offer to pick up something I forgot from the grocery store, though I believe this topic was covered previously in Miss Manners)

                          1. I worked as a cook in a monastery in NC that was not subject to inspections. My boss told me it was considered a "private dining club" and was not required to be inspected. I never looked into this, just took it at face value. Could be how some underground restaurants are getting around the rules by being a "private dining club".

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: morwen

                              I suspect this is why they didn't charge as mentioned in my above thread (just asked for donations). I can get into trouble cooking for the Ladies Club golf club here, But if I join, I am only helping out my friends in our association. So of course, (even though I don't golf) I am a member.

                            2. I think the concept has been really well-explained in this thread- made me rethink the idea, where when I started reading I was dead-set against it. I'm still not sure I know anybody I think of as a good enough chef to blow me away at a paid-for underground restaurant. Maybe if i knew some really amazing cooks I might change my mind, though.
                              I've heard quite a few horror stories about the so-called "gourmet dinner groups", both from the POVs of the people who went and the people who cooked. A lot of folks have some really weird ideas about what constitutes gourmet fare. Some of the menus read straight out of a 1950s church cookbook, not that that's the worst thing on earth, but you just know there's somebody out there who's sure they can wow their 'customers' with Bisquick and Cream of _______ Soup. And I'd probably lose it if I was thinking I'd be going to some risque underground dining experience and ended up with something like that.

                              But at least you have all made me rethink the concept...

                              1. We were once charged for a non gourmet dinner by family members no less. It was for profit.
                                We've been to the underground but for what was charged-there are some pretty good restaurants and I can order what I want.
                                I do think it would be fun to join a supper club where everyone cooks.....or brings some good wine. They have all different ways of dividing up the cost.