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Creating a Cooking/Supper Club

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Hi Fellow Chowhounders,

My sister and I are in the process of starting up a Supper Club. I have tried doing some research online, and have found very little information on the subject. I did find a blurb in the back on Bon Appetit and a few, very short online articles.

If any of you are in an active Supper Club, I would love it if you would share some of your experiences with me. I am interested in everything, from the mechanics to the menus.

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  1. Cooking Light has terrific resources for all aspects of being part of a supper club:

    http://www.cookinglight.com/entertain...

    1 Reply
    1. re: meatn3

      Thanks Meatn3. I checked out this link last night and it had a lot of great information.

    2. A question about your proposed Supper Club .................. is this a quiet, underground private club where people pay to eat the food you select and cook or is it to be a rotating dinner party with the same people attending all the events and providing food from provided recipes for the set menu?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sherri

        Hi Sherri,

        Good question. I was referring to the type of club where people come together to cook, share recipes, and yes, eat dinner together. We just had our inaugural meeting last night and we have settled on meeting once every other month, rotating houses, rotating courses, and setting aside one meeting every six months to plan the themes for the following six months. So far we have 7 or 8 members. We are hoping to cap our club at 10 members.

        Our first "supper" will be pulled from the pages of Small Bites, Big Nights (the Chef from Table 8 in L.A. We will be making burrata salad, skirt steak skewers, green garbanzo bean crostini, grilled endive and a creamsicle cocktail. I will report back again as we progress. Meanwhile, I am hoping to learn more about other people's experiences. Please chime in with your thoughts!

      2. Great topic! I would love to be able to do this in my town. I'm fairly new here and don't feel that I'm able to quite just reach out yet and say "come eat at my place". But I look forward to seeing this thread grow :)

        3 Replies
        1. re: alliegator

          I think it is a great topic for a thread too, but it doesn't seem to be getting much traffic. Maybe I need to move it to another board?

          1. re: dkennedy

            You might be able to rephrase it in a way that could fit on Home Cooking.

            1. re: meatn3

              yeah, I think home cooking would get it to pick up... just my .02

        2. Years ago I belonged to one of these. The way our group worked was that the host would plan the menu, research recipes and distribute the different courses to the members. The host would actually cook nothing, but provide the space, the beverages and do all the cleanup. Cleanup was minimal since there hadn't been any cooking. Courses and hosting would rotate among the members - in the end no one ever had to host more than once a year.

          It worked very well. As a host, you had an opportunity to concentrate on things like ambiance and research. As a cook, you were provided with a recipe that you may never have chosen to make on your own - sometimes a challenge, sometimes not. Once I was assigned some very complicated pate en croute which just about killed me to make but it was a great learning experience to actually do it.

          A few friends have lately been talking about starting this kind of thing up again. It was fun and interesting.

          1. I was in a cooking club a year or so ago. It was really casual (maybe too casual for its own good). The host (or the group) would pick a theme for the meal. It was actually more like a themed potluck hosted by a different person each month. Most of the cooking was done at each person's home and they brought the prepared dish to the host's house. There was also no planned menu and people wouldn't really announce what they were bringing ahead of time...which sometimes resulted in things like a brunch meeting with 4 people out of 8 bringing muffins. THere would also be people who obviously invested a lot of effort and others who just kind of got by. We'd also often end up with a rather uneven meal.

            Based on my experience with that group I think things would work better (for this kind of group where not everyone has room to have 6+ people cooking in their kitchen) :

            - ahead of time get everyone's food allergies & dietary requirements out in the open(vegetarian, halaal/kosher, gluten-freee, nut allergy etc)...and decide how you are going to handle it..ex. across the board rule of "sue is vegitarian so ALL of our dishes must be" vs. "about 50%+ of dishes at a meal should be veg-friendly

            - the group as a whole or the host should pick a menu/dish selection options for each meeting for people to pick from or have the host approve of a selection (ex. I don't like any of those French country picnic options you gave but I have this great recipe for an onion tart, would it be okay if I made that?). This will help make sure your menu is well-covered (avoid the too-many-muffins scenario)
            - ask that people commit to their final dish at least about a week before the meal

            dkennedy, Sounds like what you are doing is inline with the suggestions I've made above.

            1. I am not sure if this is the same thing...

              But we do a "dinner party club". Where there are 8 of us ( 4 couples) , each taking turns hosting a complete, formal dinner party. There is a theme chosen by the host and the host does EVERYTHING and does it BIG. The guests do nothing but bring a bottle of wine and interesting stories. But because there are 4 couples and we do it approximately every other month, it only amounts to once per year as the host.

              It is really nice to be able to go and be treated to a fabulous dinner party regularly, with the same people that love food and presentation as much as you do. It has really been a wonderful addition to our social life and we have had some memorable meals and wine tastings.

              4 Replies
              1. re: sedimental

                Wow, I am surprised that so few of us foodies are involved in these supper/cooking clubs. I live in L.A. and we have a lot (and I mean a lot) of cooking schools that have popped up around here, some out of peoples homes. Our club is intended to be kind of like an informal and less expensive cooking school, to help us self teach and stay motivated. I am also hoping it will give me a group of foodies to take classes and outings with!

                Mangorita mentioned hat not many people have kitchens where 6+ can be in and cook at the same time. I agree with that concern. I have a huge kitchen and so we can pretty much do whatever we need to when we are hosting here, but when we go to smaller homes, there are ways to make it work. We can all work around the kitchen table and then take turns in the kitchen. Or we can make a communal dish like aranchini (deep fried rice balls) where everyone comes with their own variation of risotto already made up and chilled, and then we sit around the table and stuff and roll our balls, and one person fries them up while another makes cocktails and the others make the salad or the dessert or wash dishes.

                So yes, it is a challenge to work in less than ideal quarters, but not a deal breaker.

                1. re: dkennedy

                  I am in 2 different Supper clubs. 1 has 3 couples and the other has 5. Each club meet every 2 months or so.

                  The club with 5 couples in it is relatively formal. The host produces the entire meal with the other couples just bringing a bottle or two of wine. Food is very good and themed. Some of the better cooks in the group are more extravagant and the evenings involve alot of nice conversation, good food and drink and are always a great time.

                  The group with 3 couples is a bit more focused on cooking and going over the top. In this group we have 3 really strong cooks and their spouses who are alot of fun. In this group we have done a mini Iron Chef where we all brought ingredients (1 Protein, 1 starch, 2 Vegetables and 2 strange items per couple) and then drew straws to form 3 2 person teams. After teams were established we drew ingredient names from a hat and after a bit of horse trading we set about making dishes. It was a long night and the last entree was served around midnight (split lobsters smoked on a XL Green Egg) but it was tons of fun. Other times this group will do less formal dinners with kids attending and each couple bringing dishes and assembling them together.

                  1. re: smarcus

                    I like the sound of both your clubs. My husband is not into the cooking so much, he is into the eating. Most of my friends who are into cooking are women, so ours is an all women club, no spouses at this point. Maybe as we evolve and become more comfortable working together we can bring in dates to enjoy our bounty.

                    The iron chef night sounds very fun!!!

                    1. re: dkennedy

                      Iron Chef was a blast. My wife who doesn't cook was paired up with one of the other husbands who doesn't cook either but they asked a few questions and did a great job. They ended up doing simple but good food and getting done in an hour and half where as the other 2 groups with good cooks did complicated elaborate food and ended up cooking for 4 or 5 hours. They kept asking if we were done yet while they drank cocktails and relaxed wile we were running all over the place.

              2. Just wanted to add a link to this older Chowhound discussion on cooking/dinner clubs that I found: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/378926

                There are a good number of posts in there around ideas for themes and people discussing how their club works.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mangorita

                  Thanks for posting the link. I saw this thread before, but it focuses on dinner parties, not cooking parties, so I decided to start my own thread. I wish it was generating more feedback. If an opportunity presents itself, I may post a link to this discussion in this months COTM. I think that is my best bet for finding Chowhounders who have cooking club experiences.

                2. i just wanted to thank you (dkennedy) for starting this thread. there are probably a lot of readers (like me) who are just lurking because it is a great topic, but one that we have no experience in. so our opinions would, overall, not help you, but the comments are giving us ideas so that we may try to start something ourselves. so don't get discouraged by the lack of comments. they will come. i would cross post on home cooking or general chowhounding, or maybe both.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: justanotherpenguin

                    Thanks for the encouragement, Penguin. I will attempt to cross-post. Any advice on how to do this?

                    1. re: dkennedy

                      Perhaps a post asking for Supper Club menu suggestions. You can explain your clubs parameters and provide a link here for sharing more nuts and bolts type experiences.

                      Like anything on CH, once enough people start posting it will take on a life of its own!

                      Please keep posting about how your club is going. I agree with the person who suggested that there are probably many lurkers interested.

                      I've always been drawn to the idea, but with a tiny kitchen and a dining area that seats 5 max, have never thought it to be a workable option. But ideas like your suggestion for aranchini are having me revisit the concept!

                      1. re: meatn3

                        Thanks Meatn3, l love your idea to start a new thread asking for Supper Club Menu suggestions. I will get right on it and link one to the other.

                        Here is the link: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765911

                        I will keep posting as my club progresses. I hope to have pictures after our first meeting on February 27th.

                  2. My friends and I have started a cooking club and although we have only done it twice, we really love doing it. It is fun and tasty. What we do is pick a cuisine for the night (so far we have done Indian and Mexican) and then create a google doc for the recipes. That way, everyone can collaborate at once to see what others are making and make sute it is balanced. The host couple for that night buys the ingredients needed for the recipe and the guests bring alcohol.

                    People come over mid-afternoon so that there is plenty of time to prepare the dishes, as most of them are new to all of us. The stove can be a bit crowded at times, but it usually works out and then everyone can sit down to a nice, leisurely meal.

                    1. I think maybe the supper club idea needs it's own board! I happened upon this thread by complete accident. There are probably people all over the map who would like to join or start such a club. I'm relatively new in my area, so don't have any clues about how to find or start such a group. If there was a regular site to check, one could search for their geographical area and see who might be interested.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                        Anyone ever participated in the other kind of supper club--an underground prix fixe for a night--either as a cook/host or as a guest?

                        1. re: femmevox

                          Yes, I have femmevox. One in Quebec City and another in San Francisco as a guest. I was amazed by every aspect of the evening; from menu, to food knowledge, to fellow guests, to dinner coordinators. It was a fantastic experience.

                          1. re: femmevox

                            Not yet but I'm going to one (in the UK) next week. I will post back!

                            1. re: femmevox

                              Z Kitchen was moderately famous in Durham a few years back
                              http://www.dukemagazine.duke.edu/duke...
                              famous enough for the county health department to get involved.

                              1. re: femmevox

                                We participated in one when the concept was new in our city. It was quite pricey but fun because we met all kinds of people interested in food and wine. The food was pretty good but I think the chef underplanned a little on how much he needed.

                            2. My husband and I met in an international market aisle looking over olive oil; turned out we had cooking/supper clubs in common and btwn us participate in five. Some stemmed from our culinary friendships throughout the tristate and two through professional associations. We've met at each others homes, commerical kitchens, camp sites, schools, farms and hotels meeting rooms while traveling together dictated by the menu and supper plans. Not all of our get togethers involved "just" eating. Many are educational gatherings and include a private speaker to cover new techniques, discuss food. Two of the couples moved recently (retired) and we're opening up our club to include four new members next month. As for menus, recipes-I'd be happy to help if you could be more specific with what you're looking for. We love our supper clubs and the wonderful people we've gotten to know. We plan all of our menus together. http://www.cookinglight.com/entertain...
                              Because Cooking Light magazine devotes an entire web section to Supper Clubs, I agree its a wonderful guidepost for recipes and club ideas.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: HillJ

                                Thank you HIllJ for sharing your experience. You sound like your experience with supper clubs has been ideal. I would be grateful for any advice you have about themes - memorable menus, memorable recipes. I think this kind of input will be incredibly useful to any of us who are interested in a supper club start up.

                                You mentioned that you are opening up your club to new members. In terms of starting up a new club, I think it would be helpful to hear how you go about recruiting new members. I had a very hard time finding a group of people and it took me a long time to get things going. Since we are just starting out, I predict we will have some attrition over time and I would love your advice as to where and how to find other members.

                                1. re: dkennedy

                                  We approach recruiting by talking to people we know, work with, travel with, hire in our pro & personal lives. We talk about the club in general conversation and supper club type people tend to respond. Those hard core folks come along every once in a great while understanding the time and money commitment a club commands and the delicious rewards and fun we all strive for. So, like anything else you love to do-keep the topic in conversation. My husband and I didn't start out knowing any of our club members well beforehand. We got to know each other through the club. Another useful hint, if you know restaurant owners; ask them if they can recommend an individuals/couple that might enjoy joining your supper club. "Regulars" are often the ideal supper clubbers.

                                  Menus-wow where to begin. We approach the menu like a delicious homework assignment. We've explored dozens of cuisines, savory vs sweet, riffs on seasonal ingredients. One club assigns a question to members, example: what would your food pyramid include? Now create a dish from that list. Since we live in NJ our favorite time of year for club is summer because we can dine outside, get creative with locations and enjoy our local produce readily. One year the club worked through an entire cookbook seasonally and it was fantastic.

                                  Between suppers we communicate online; a very loose and always charming newsletter of sorts for ideas, reading materials, recipes, speakers, travel ideas, pricing, coupon sharing, farm visits, you name it. It builds relations btwn suppers and gives everyone time to communicate ideas and hash out definite dates/plans.

                                  Now, ideal isn't a word I would cop to. Nothings ideal. At some point we went the association route with two clubs and bought insurance. Kitchen fire made us rethink the responsibility and issues that you can never plan for. Just saying. But if you have the commitment, sense of fun and adventure from the right mix of people-it's a very rewarding experience.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    I am in a cooking club with 4 people. Two of them are professional chefs. The goal was to try new recipes out on a friendly audience who can taste-test and offer feedback. So the one rule is that each person must cook something they've never cooked before. We all source recipes from different places, usually cookbooks and magazines.

                                    Here's how ours works:

                                    There is always a cuisine theme, usually seasonal. (in February it was "Lunar New Year"; in March we are doing Southern/Creole in honor of Mardi Gras. Past themes have been "farmer's market", "guilty pleasures", "Mediterranean", "party foods")

                                    The host gets to do the main course, since she often needs more access to stoves, ovens, etc. The other three cooks select from 1st, 2nd or dessert. The host often provides an amuse as well.

                                    Everyone brings a printed copy of his/her recipe, and after the course we discuss what changes the cook made, or ways to use the recipe in the future. Sometimes the discussion is, "Well, I never need to make that again!"

                                    If we declare it a wine dinner, each cook brings a bottle that pairs with her course (one bottle = 4 glasses = perfect). There are usually a couple extra bottles of Champagne floating around. A couple times a year, we open the menu up to cocktail pairings.

                                    At the end of each dinner, we confer on calendar dates for the next dinner, select a host, and select a theme. Host is mostly rotating among the 4 of us but calendar and family obligations determine host also. Occasionally if it does not work for anyone to host, we will select a new restaurant that everyone wants to try, and make it a dining-out night.

                                    We occasionally invite spouses. Those nights are a lot of fun but they are less agile then our foursome, which over the years has grown very intimate and very comfortable cooking together in the same kitchen.

                                    A couple years back, we had to replace one of our four, and it was VERY difficult! Took us months. Finding people who are a good fit in terms of attitudes around cooking, dining, and entertaining will always be a challenge.

                                    It is great fun, and I find our supper club very enriching.

                                    1. re: lhooq

                                      Your club sounds amazing. I love the idea of your intimate group cooking together, going out to dinner, and having occasional date nights. I think I will steal your idea about everyone bringing a bottle of wine to pair with their course.

                                      Our first meeting will take place this coming Sunday at my house (already we have had a change of venue, one person drop out, and another two are suffering from child care issues). Hopefully we will weather these challenges and have a great time. I will report back with pictures.

                                      1. re: dkennedy

                                        I look forward to reading about your first dinner, dk.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          We had our first meeting on February 27th. We ran into some problems, and for a few minutes I thought the whole thing wasn't going to happen. But, all in all, I think it was a successful first meeting.

                                          About ten days before, one of our members decided to drop out. OK, one man down, one course short. Not a big deal since we were serving a tapas style menu. This member was suppose to bring a crostini so I decided to make a flatbread to go along with my dish to make up for it.

                                          Then, a week before two of our members ran into child care issues. One of them managed to make it, the other had to bail at the last minute. Now we were two dishes short. Again, we had two salads on the menu so we were still ok.

                                          Next, on the morning of the event, a third member (our non-cooking member) had something come up. She was in charge of the cocktail. Luckily, she offered to drop some wine off with another member so we wouldn't be inconvenienced. Subsequently, this member also decided to drop out.

                                          So we start the day with 6 members, 1 absent, 5 present. I am telling you, as all the emails and calls started pouring in I got very anxious. I know I am painting a really gloomy pictures, but it turned out to be an amazing day.

                                          We all took turns, my sister Rande, made her burrata salad first. It was fantastic and we had huge portions since there were only 5 of us. Next, Synthia made her dish, steak skewers, served in lettuce cups. Refreshing yet satisfying. From there we moved on to preparing the dessert because it still needed time to cook in the oven. Michelle took us through making the Krispy Kreme bread pudding and once she put it in the oven it was hard to think about anything else. Somer's dish was next, and I think it may have been my favorite. Grilled endive, stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in Serrano ham. So yummy! Somer used Prosciutto because she couldn't find Serrano, but I think Serrano would have made them even better. When I try it I will use Serrano and post again to see if I am right. My dish was demo'ed last, I made BBQed quail with a corn salsa. It was a great technique dish, because I got to show everyone how to butterfly a small bird, but I didn't love the finished product and I would not make this recipe again. The corn salsa alone was really nice and I might make it for a summer BBQ. By the time I put my dish on the grill, Michelle's spectacular dessert was coming out of the oven and it was all I could do to not gobble it up.

                                          Another problem we ran into was my grill. I have an old and decrepit grill that flairs up and burns everything with sauce that comes in its path so it was not the ideal venue for a tapas menu that required grilling four of the dishes. We were suppose to hold this meeting at Synthia's home but we moved it to my house once her kitchen redo started. It was too late to revamp the menu so we had to make due with my dragon. By the time I host again, I will have a new BBQ.

                                          We ate small plate after small plate at the dining room table, lingering over each delicious bite. We ended our first meeting by some of us sitting down together to watch the academy awards while others went home to put their kids to bed.

                                          Somer has selected a variety of Mexican recipes for our next meeting. Can't wait!

                                          1. re: dkennedy

                                            Well dk, I was looking forward to reading about your 1st supper and you didn't disappoint! What was your take away lesson from the pilot dinner? Your thoughts regarding preplanning invites, prep time, flexibility, clean up and so on. Anything you plan to do differently for Mexican menu night? Anyone from the group change their mind about staying with a supper club? Any new members coming on board now that the buzz about the first dinner is being shared?

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              HI HillJ,

                                              As a result of the problems we encountered at the first meet up with last minute cancellations, our take away lesson was to institute a "policy" going forward about no shows. The rule being is that if you can't make it after the food assignments have been made, you are still responsible for getting your ingredients and/or finished product to the hostess by the morning of the event. This way, we will have a complete, well rounded menu regardless of how many show for a given event. All the other policies seem workable at this point. Everyone pulled their own weight in terms of sharing clean up and making dishes and I think a good time was had by all. As I said above, we are down to 6 members with no new members in the horizon.

                                              We have two new events planned. Our next supper will be hosted by Somer in mid-April. The menu has been selected by our hostess. We are making, among other things tamales. In light of the fact we are all novices when it comes to tamale making, some of us are taking a tamale making class on April 3rd to learn more about the process, and, to get some yummy recipes. Fortuitously, we found a Groupon for just such a class right after planning the menu. I'll report back after April 3rd.

                                              1. re: dkennedy

                                                dk, I admire your dedication early on. I think a no show policy is not only a fair policy but inevitable. I've never taken a tamale class so I look forward to learning in greater detail what the class covered.

                                                Speaking of discount offers like Groupon have you ever heard of the app Checkpoints? In the time it takes to food shop and scan a barcode, you can earn points towards all sorts of food related rewards. You might enjoy checking into it.

                                                Have fun at your April supper!

                                      2. re: lhooq

                                        lhooq, it's so helpful to read about other established clubs. Thank you for outlining yours in such nice detail.

                                  2. re: HillJ

                                    Hi HillJ - I am wondering where in NJ you are - and if there might be an interest in accepting another member to yours?

                                  3. Our Gourmet Club has been meeting for about 15 years now. There are currently 9 of us. 7 of us are original members. We find that 8-10 is a really good size for the club. Most people can seat 8-10 people in their homes and if one couple can't make it for some reason, you still have enough people for it to feel like a real dinner party. Two of the couples prepare one dish each, the singleton prepares a dish, and one of the couples prepares two dishes because they both like to cook and they each want to prepare their own dish.

                                    We take turns hosting. Whoever is hosting sets the theme and cooks the main course. They also typically provide the wine, although it's not unusual for someone to bring along another bottle or to come up with a cocktail that goes along with the theme. In 15 years, we have almost never repeated a theme, and almost never repeated a dish. Here are some of the themes we have enjoyed over the years:

                                    Asian
                                    Italian
                                    Caribbean
                                    African
                                    A State Dinner
                                    Clam Bake on the beach
                                    Comfort Foods
                                    A family recipe
                                    Olives
                                    Mushrooms
                                    Hors d'oeuvres
                                    New England dinner
                                    Thanksgiving preview
                                    Southern barbecue
                                    and many more!

                                    We are pretty casual about how often we meet. We try to meet every 2 to 3 months, and one of our meetings is our annual ski weekend getaway. (On our ski weekend, we each take a meal instead of a dish.)

                                    We have had some astonishingly good meals over the years. Most of our members are really excellent cooks and we're not timid about trying something challenging. And everyone will eat pretty much anything. I'm sooo glad we don't have to deal with picky eaters. It would take a lot of the fun out of it.

                                    The most important thing about our club is the people. We started as friends and we've become even better friends over the years. Getting together with each other is AS important or more important than the food.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: greenish

                                      Thanks Greenish for all the info!

                                      1. re: dkennedy

                                        It might not be exactly the same, but a group of four couples get together for "This Day in History Pot Luck".

                                        There are NO rules...so it's truly a pot luck. We've had a couple of times where there were an overabundance of desserts, or cocktails.

                                        However, it's great good fun, if not always "chowish" in the extreme.

                                        For example, we're doing it this Saturday. On 2 April, in 1877 the White House hosted the first Easter Egg roll.

                                        I'm making scratch-made egg rolls!

                                        Another time a couple found that the Studebaker auto company went out of business on pot luck day. The went to the local bakery and bought a beautiful strudel...accompanied by a photo of the "Strudel Baker".

                                        Without the World-Wide Inter-tubes, I don't think we could do this, but it's a real hoot.

                                        One of us often even burns a CD with songs associated with the day.

                                    2. Any good websites for organizing people's calendars for this?

                                      1. i know this is several years too late but you might see if you can find Dina Guillen's book Cooking Club. It can give you a lot of information.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Candy

                                          thanks-we just started it..JUNE 2014

                                          1. re: ecutler

                                            HAVE FUN!!!
                                            Jealous! Any North NJ/Rockland Cty. people interested in starting one?