September 24 2012 – Robert Fiumara
Pop-up supper clubs are doing exactly what their name suggests and “popping up” all over the US, Great Britain, Europe and even as far east as Seoul, South Korea. But what exactly is it and how is it impacting restaurant culture?
The idea of a “supper club” has undergone numerous changes throughout culinary history. The original popularization of the name started in the Midwest. The idea being that a supper club was a family friendly, independently owned restaurant that offered a restricted menu, an unrestricted bar and some form of live entertainment. These clubs were made popular in the mid 1950’s and still exist in many places today.
The other version of a supper club is more like that of a night club that happens to offer a minimal menu, but is primarily the destination for those seeking an available bar. The reason behind this is because “supper club” licenses were far easier to attain than standard liquor licenses, particularly in those areas on or around the Bible Belt where alcohol sales are still restricted.
While all of these incarnations of the “supper club” are historically accurate, the newest version is the one that sweeping the hearts and imaginations of foodies everywhere. The modern pop-up supper club is more akin to an intimate dinner party. The head count rarely rises above 30 and is generally a way for an established chef to audition new recipes or for a new up and comer to get his/her following started on a grass roots scale. Typically, these clubs are in transient locations and are only available for a night or a weekend. There is a prix fixe price which typically includes a three course meal and a cocktail or aperitif. Because of the limited space these pop-up dinners are not widely publicized, but depend on word of mouth to keep them full and funded.
In some of the larger cities where supper clubs are less of a novelty, there are websites or groups to join that will let you know about any up-coming club dates. Because space is limited these groups often require reservations and payment up front. As their popularity continues to grow the question becomes how will this affect the restaurant industry?
The setting of one of these supper clubs, while exclusive is also relatively casual. Typically the diners are able to have a significant amount of direct contact with the chef, something that is not common in a traditional restaurant setting. The decision about whether to wear professional culinary apparel or work in a nicer version of their own street clothes seems to be left up to the discretion of the individual chef. There are chefs who make the decision to remain in their professional attire in order to maintain that level of separation between themselves and their clients and to lend credibility to their food.
With a small scale operation such as this one can imagine that the overhead may be low, but every chef would be able to appreciate knowing where to get affordable and professional culinary apparel. This is why offerings from companies such as Fiumara Apparel are so important to today culinary industry. We offer the latest culinary fashions as reasonable prices that are affordable for any chef at any level.