“Cooking is an extension of art, just like painting,” says John Bisignano, a butcher, home chef, and founder of Bad Mother Supper, a rock ‘n’ roll–themed underground dining experience in Brooklyn. This month, Per La Mente sits down for a meal with an array of unique new supper clubs, also including Ai Ito’s Ajito: The Hideout, a semi-regular meal featuring multiple courses of Japanese tapas, and Simone Ver Eecke and Isabel Kagan’s Tile Table, a monthly themed supper accompanied by activities and a movie.
Each of these proprietors combines his or her unique culinary expertise with a flair for the dramatic, resulting in events that leave guests dazzled and, of course, stuffed.
The first-ever supper club was founded by Milwaukeen Lawrence Frank in Beverly Hills, just after Prohibition ended in the 1930s. What began as an attempt to democratize fine dining by making it available to people of every social class has morphed over the decades into myriad different shapes and experiences, catering to every type of person and featuring everything from low-key down-home vittles to exclusive super-high-end fare.
This can mean gorgeously innovative cooking, as evidenced by Craig Thornton, who runs Wolvesmouth in Los Angeles. Thornton, who has had a residence at the Museum of Contemporary Art to create nine-course “art dinners,” is known for dishes that evoke violence, aggression, and masculinity but are designed beautifully, with earthy, feminine ingredients. “I’m not just going to go around replicating stuff I’ve seen at previous restaurants,” he told The New Yorker. “I’m going to think about what I like about flavors, textures, temperatures, and colors.”
It can also mean radically unusual ideas about how and where to serve food. One young chef became infamous for starting a supper club in his Columbia University dorm room when he was just 21 years old and had no culinary training — it was so successful that it was dubbed “the hottest table in town” by the New York Post. He continues Pith to this day, with his elaborate, seasonal meals now popping up all over the world.
Another supper club that takes advantage of varied locations is PlaceInvaders, which invites diners to partake of multiple courses prepared by local chefs and served in other people’s homes, from chic Manhattan lofts to a “Motown mansion” in Detroit. “Everyone is so happy with these experiences,” co-founder Hagan Blount told Per La Mente. “People so often say, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t even know there was anything like this!’”