Cooking Light Supper Club
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A decade ago, a Cooking Light reader used the magazine’s online bulletin board to find like-minded souls to join her in a supper club. Cooking Light knew a good thing when it saw one: It featured Amy Fong’s club in the magazine and started encouraging other readers to form clubs.
Now the magazine has a spot on its website (cookinglight.com, click on community) with suggestions and tips for clubs, and marketing director Hallett Ruzic says there are more than 100 clubs.
(At right, Cooking Light’s executive chef Billy Strynkowski demonstrates.)
One magazine reader, Barbara Tiedemann of El Segundo, caught the bug a few years back and enlisted some friends and relatives. Their dinners have a theme, and each couple contributes a dish. Sometimes the host requests a specific dish, sometimes just a course. The members range in age from 30s to 60s, and their cooking experience is equally varied.
“This way we are all sharing and learning,” she said.
I went to a Cooking Light Supper Club dinner the other night at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica -- meant to encourage more supper clubs, perhaps forging groups with the people seated nearby. That didn’t quite work for me -– I live in L.A., and my tablemates lived in Newport Beach and Riverside County.
But everyone seemed to be having a great time -– the wine flowed freely, and the food was good. People cheered Cooking Light’s amiable executive chef, Billy Strynkowski, who cooked on a stage and whose efforts were shown on an adjacent big screen.
Not all the food seemed especially light -– a cheesy artichoke dip, rice balls, garlic bread with cheese for appetizers. But dinner used light cream cheese and other low-fat ingredients to good effect in a meal that included a salad with caramelized pears and blue cheese, beef filet with peppercorn sauce and a dessert crepe.
Strynkowski demonstrated some knife skills, gave recommendations for buying pans, and made plenty of suggestions for party food -– adding dried cherries to a pate, cooking the pate in plastic wrap to create a loaf that could be easily sliced, how to stuff a beef filet with cheese, setting up a party with themed tables so guests could mingle and nosh.
In that sense, supper clubs are not so different from book clubs or other gatherings.
Cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman started a supper club at her home in 1973 in Austin, Texas, “when I decided to make a career out of cooking.” Guests, usually about 30 of them, paid $1.50 for supper, or $1 in a subscription of four suppers.
She cooked, they ate. And the evenings served the dual purpose of being fun and helping Shulman develop her repertoire. When she moved to Paris, she repeated the supper club idea and wrote a book about the experience, called “Supper Club Chez Martha Rose.”
‘People would describe it to friends as a salon,” said Shulman, who now lives in Los Angeles but has not revived the idea here. “I wanted to know that people were having a good time,” she said. “It wasn’t a foodie thing, it was more of a social thing.”