Underground restaurants mushroom in Vancouver 0
Kristen LeGrow, an underground restaurant owner/chef in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday October 25, 2012, (CARMINE MARINELLI / 24 HOURS)
Underground restaurants are mushrooming in Vancouver, with one local chef expanding her list of invitation-only dinner guests to thousands of total strangers.
Swallow Tail founder Robin, who withheld her last name because of the “underground” nature of her fare, hosts by-donation underground dinners out of her Mount Pleasant home. It’s about building a culinary community, she said.
The Vancouver-based chef — who usually welcomes about 30 guests to her home “supper club” — also regularly hosts “pop-up” restaurants at rented locations for larger groups and special events.
Her next big event in December showcases a secret “indoor forest” dinner, themed around the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.
“We’ll find these weird little gems. Our event starts in the forest and people are given a treasure map of Stanley Park with an ‘X’ marked, and people will meet out there,” Robin said.
Beginning with just a few friends five years ago, she now has about 3,000 subscribers who receive her event notices.
Newer to the scene is Raincity Grill executive chef Nicolas Hipperson, who began Farm-2-Fork last February out of a Gastown residence. He now employs two servers and a kitchen team and stages dinners five times a week — on top of his full-time job at Raincity.
“As much as I love the food industry in Vancouver, doing it at home is fun. It’s an opportunity to step back from the chaos of the line,” Hipperson said.
“You have one table to focus on, and they’re there because they love food and what you’re showing them.”
Farm-2-Fork’s focus is on locally sourced foods, with vegetables arriving from the Fraser Valley, beef from Pemberton, fish from Vancouver Island, and other local goodies.
Former nurse Kristen LeGrow, who founded The Endless Meal Supper Club six months ago, expands on the idea of “building community” by exclusively serving food on shared platters. Unsurprisingly, she calls it a full-time gig, with bookings all the way to December and an average of two to three dinners a week.
“We do it family style to encourage that intimacy where people are sharing and connecting over food,” LeGrow said.
“The entire menu is also created specifically for your group, it’s an exclusive. We talk at the beginning about dietary preferences and allergies, and the kind of food you want to see. When you come, you get a really hands-on experience.”
Both Swallow Tail and Endless Meals encourages attendees to bring their own wine, which is typically shared among other diners who also bring their own bottles to sample.
Farm-2-Fork diners can expect chef-recommended wine pairings.