So, you’ve just spent way too much money and months of living in the other side of the house to get the kitchen you’ve always wanted. Now what?
Or, you want an incentive or inspiration to finally make that kitchen upgrade that you’ve been dreaming about?
Or, you just want to start a dinner group because it will be fun?
Well, here’s three options that you might consider to start a dinner group. They’re not meant to be fixed though. You can obviously mix these together or come up with other options on your own.
The point is to get you started in thinking about how you can start a dinner group. A group that works best for you and will likely last longer than the first meal!
Start a supper club with your friends. It will be easy to organize under most circumstances. This option can be as simple as setting up a rotating schedule of meals with your friends in each other’s kitchens.
It’s pretty open-ended. You can suggest vote on a theme ahead of time if the host provides two or three choices. Or, you can collectively vote on a bunch of themes over a year or so and randomly match people with each one.
You might choose a rotating cuisine theme, or just rotating protein or even vegetarian themed meals. Greek in March? Sure, give it a whirl and force yourself to maybe learn some new techniques and work with ingredients that are new to you.
The point is, it should be organized just enough for everyone to know when and where and who is hosting. It’s also important for each person to know what they will be cooking with enough lead time to prepare. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be too organized to ruin the fun!
Drinks are another “add-on” possibility. You can even make it all about wine or cocktails, for example, with appetizers or snacks so that the food is secondary. In that case, though, the cooking part is pretty far removed.
This option is pretty straightforward and simple, not much more to say and not as challenging as these next options.
A more challenging and potentially more rewarding version is to set up a club through friends of friends or people you kinda know. It will help you find new and interesting people that share your culinary aspirations and possibly other interests as well.
This is a great opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone that you don’t know very well. It could be someone in another area of your life that you think might have an interest in a supper club. Since you’re inviting people into your home and vice versa, it’s probably better not to invite complete strangers.
You also want to be very careful about internet messaging boards or meetup invites for setting this up in your home. Those would be best suited for some other location, like a commercial kitchen where everyone can meet in a “neutral” location.
Why take this option? The challenge of hosting a meal. Whether it’s in your kitchen or another kitchen, it will help you become a better cook. No matter where you are in the spectrum of cooking from “bad” to “gourmet”, you’ll benefit.
Beginning cooks can benefit for obvious reasons. But even highly skilled cooks can learn from having to teach or show others how to cook. There’s always something new that you can pick up from someone else that might have some tips for you.
You will also be committed to making something that other people, not necessarily your more forgiving friends, will like. And make it on a deadline. With this opti0n, the pressure cooker has been turned on, at least a bit. This doesn’t need to be terrifying, just challenging in a good way, and hopefully a lot of fun.
Another reason this makes sense is that you’ll be motivated to have your kitchen is looking really good and in working order. Or, it will give a legitimate excuse to get it in working order.
Ever hear about why Cortes burned his own ships upon arriving in the “New World”? The crews became a lot more motivated when they realized they had nowhere else to go!
In your case, it isn’t nearly as dire as burned-out ships. But, when you’re about to have six to ten hungry cooks descend on your kitchen, you’re be focused. You’re going to be motivated to make your kitchen look and function really well.
What Else? You’ll enrich your experiences and you’ll be guaranteed to learn new stuff. What you learn will be based on how challenging you make it for yourself. The more unfamiliar the experience, considering the surroundings and the food, the more potential there will be for rewarding life lessons.
You can really amp this idea up with a wine add on, or even a purely wine-focused event. You can even pick the worst wine snobs you know and you’ll probably learn a lot, but be careful not to sacrifice fun for knowledge! You’ll probably have to experiment a bit to find the best balance between knowledge and fun.
Another option is to hire a professional chef to cook with you, either with a group of close friends or with people you kinda know. A professional can help you and your guests elevate your skills and also possibly add new techniques to your cooking so that everyone learns something new.
Again, you’ll want to find a balance between knowledge, or teaching, and fun. But most professional chefs understand the entertainment element of cooking and should be able to work with you in making your event a fun experience.
There are several options you can use to find a professional chef from word of mouth to sites like bark.com that will find one for you.
With a professional, you can do a lot, depending on the experience levels of your and your group. Some may want to have some French gourmet instruction or maybe special gourmet barbeque, even butchering techniques. You can concentrate on specialty regional cooking, say Thai, or any other area that you as a group are most interested in. Alternatively, you may want to focus on deserts or even precise baking, or even appetizers and entertaining techniques.
The point is that it’s wide open and it may run smoothest with professional help. You and your group will certainly remember the experience and pick up some new skills at the same time.
You want to choose a frequency of dinners that works well for you and the other members of your group. For instance, weekly dinners are probably too frequent for most groups (except maybe for die-hards!). Monthly dinners are probably the best option for most groups, not too frequent and not too far apart that you forget the whole purpose of the group!
If each event is hosted by one member of your group, you can just leave it to that person to shop, buy and prepare their chosen meal. This method probably works best for friends or even slight friends.
Or, you can choose to each pay a fixed amount each month with a set budget for each meal allocated out of the pot. This probably works better for groups where most people or fairly unknown to each other. Keep in mind though, that with this method it takes more work to set up, choose a treasurer, amount to spend for each meal, how people pay and are paid when their turn comes up, etc. This might help to keep your even more challenging if each meal has a fixed budget.
You may choose to keep each meal simple, choose a meal and one member of the group cook it, period.
You might also choose to have each designated cook share their techniques and recipe as an instruction to the rest of the group. This option is interesting if you’ve decided as a group to cook challenging and interesting meals.
Another thought, organize a fun cooking competition complete with a taste test to determine the winner. Inspired by cooking channel competition shows like “Top Chef”, you can choose a single competition, maybe once a year, or even every meal you make. Choose to have a few of your members compete, all of them or some other number, just remember who will be available to “judge” the winners.
For any and all of these ideas, your choice of venue may be limited by how many you can comfortably fit into your kitchen.
If kitchen capacity is limiting your “go ahead” decision, you might want to consider hiring a food truck in the driveway. Or, use a caterer to increase to supplement your kitchen capacity with side dishes, for instance.
If it works in your house logistically to open up an outside area, you might consider using any outside grills or even your barbeque to add to your cooking capacity.
However you arrange a dinner group, either casually with close friends or formally with a disciplined chef among strangers, you will learn and grow more than you will on your own. The learning and growing will also almost certainly be fun. If it’s not for some reason, just change the group!