When people ask me what I do, I say “I run a supper club and catering business”. The inevitable next question is “So what’s a supper club?”.
So, here is my answer to that question or at least, to the question “What is an Edible Flower supper club?”.
What is a Supper Club?
Photo Credit: Kat Mervyn
Supper clubs are a relatively recent phenomenon, massive in London (where we set up our first in 2014) and definitely a growing trend in Northern Ireland where we set up The Edible Flower in July 2016.
Erin and I have quite a strict definition of what you should call a supper club. Here are the four key elements:
What makes a supper club?
- A meal with set menu (subject to dietary requirements).
- Tickets for the supper club sold in advance.
- Everyone sits together for the meal, ideally on one big table.
- One sitting per evening. We think a supper club should be a leisurely experience. Not a rushed one.
But what makes it a good one….
- The food. Obviously, the food is important. And for us, a supper club is an ideal experience for people to try something new – everyone is eating the same, you get to hear a wee story about what you’re about to eat. At our supper clubs we hope that there will be something surprising or new for everyone who attends. And of course everything should be delicious!
- The chat. We love talking about the food that we prepare and serve. At our supper clubs we always interrupt between each course and let everyone know what they are about to eat, why we’ve chosen to cook it or something interesting about the recipe, the ingredients or the process involved in getting it to their plate. Everyone loves a story!
- The venue. We often hold supper clubs in our home in Saintfield which is obviously very special to us, but anywhere that is interesting or quirky is a potential location for a supper club. An unusual setting can add a whole new dimension or source of inspiration for the menu.
- You. We love it when we look along the supper club table and can no longer tell who arrived with whom. All the groups of people are chatting away, sharing wine (or beer) and generally have a fab time. It’s nothing to do with us – our supper clubs just seem to attract a really nice group of people. Having said that, I’m a very shy person, but even I manage to relax and chat away to my neighbours when I attend a supper club. There is always interesting food to chat about. It really is a unique social experience.
Photo Credit: Kat Mervyn
A Unique Experience… Really?
I went on a very awkward Italian exchange trip as a 13-year-old. Awkward because my exchange partner (let’s call her Sabrina, as that was her name) had been learning English for 8 years – me, Italian for one. She was 3 years older than me (which is huge when you’re 13/16), she was a whole lot cooler than me (hard to believe I know!!) and didn’t really want me tagging along…
However, there was one MASSIVE saving grace. Her mum was a professional chef!
Every time that I was invited into the family kitchen to help or observe, and every single mealtime, was brilliant. One day we all headed out across the Montepulciano hillsides in the family car (I had zero idea of what was going on obviously – I understood almost nothing) and arrived at an amazing sprawling, hilltop villa. We then spent the next 8 hours or so cooking and eating with all of Sabrina’s extended family. There was a lot of joking and laughing and chatting, none of which I understood. It was very noisy and about as “Italian” as a 13-year old Londoner could imagine. But most importantly, there was food. There was olive oily bruschetta toasted over massive wood fired griddle pans, rubbed with raw garlic and simply topped with slices of tomato and basil. There were loads of other things to eat that day but those bruschetta have stayed with me ever since as an example of culinary perfection.
But the reason I’m telling you all this was because this was the ultimate food sharing experience. Clichéd as it might be, my Italian family feasting day was simply amazing. Cooking together, eating together, amazing produce – a multi-course feast spanning many hours and many generations.
Of course, we now live in a world with depressing statistics about the decline of actual cooking in the home, and the decline of the family meal (even just a close family meal, let alone the extended family extravaganza I was lucky enough to attend in Italy). Yes, people still have dinner parties, people go out to restaurants, but it’s just not quite the same.
For me, the supper club is the modern world equivalent of those joyous family food-based gatherings that I think we should all value so highly. And the great thing is that you don’t need to live close to 30 members of your family to experience it… Just come and join the “Edible Flower family” for the day.
I think those family feast aspirations influence the style of food we cook. We could never cook minimalist, highly paired-back, fancy food. Yes, our produce is the highest quality we can find, and yes, everything should be absolutely delicious, bold, vibrant, subtle and brilliant, but it also has to be plentiful, fun – informal in style and ultimately a celebration of food.
So perhaps a supper club is not a unique social eating experience. It’s just a reinvention of the very first one.