On Friday 2nd October, I hosted my very own supper club for the first time, cooking for a total of 22 paying guests. Was it scary? Petrifying, at first. Did I enjoy it? Loved every bit, even the more stressful moments. Would I do it again? Potentially!
I was approached by Atomized Entertainment while I was away on my honeymoon, asking if I’d like to take part in a new 6 episode series for All 4 (Channel 4’s on demand online service), focusing on supper clubs hosted by foodies in cities around the country. Presented by Alice Levine (BBC Radio 1) and Laura Jackson (TV presenter), it took me minutes to say yes, I was totally game – representing Manchester innit!
Within just over a week since returning, I had planned my menu, decided on the number of guests, established the venue, worked out quantities for my ingredients, calculated cost per head and how much to charge for the tickets for the evening, sold them (they all got snapped up, YES) and shopped for all the food and decorations. Phew!
#SpamsSupperClub: My experience
Arriving at the cute and quirky Post Box Cafe in Chorlton first thing, the day was a rollercoaster; having fun chatting with Alice and Laura and the crew, calm moments thinking I had all the time in the world to cook everything, mad dashing around the kitchen nearly forgetting to grab a tea towel to take something out the oven.
I’m chuffed to say the evening itself was a success. After the last dish had gone out, I finally took a breath and was just overwhelmed with the response and feedback on the food. Scrolling through my Instagram and Twitter feeds, it was such an amazing feeling to see people posting photos of my food with high praise. I’D DONE IT!
Aired at the beginning of November 2015, you can WATCH IT HERE. I won’t give too much away, but thought I’d quite like to share some of the key things I learnt from the experience.
1) Carefully consider your menu
I wanted my menu for the evening to incorporate some of my favourite flavours and ingredients, while also representing my approach to food: made from healthy ingredients but still being tasty. Part of the supper club is about reflecting who you are and putting your own stamp on the food, so this is important.
Apart from wheat (I have an intolerance to it), I don’t cut out things like dairy or meat, however I was keen to take into account other dietary requirements like vegans and vegetarians. One of my main aims was to show how delicious and enjoyable these ways of eating can be with a healthy twist, hoping to inspire my guests.
Another key consideration for your menu is how it’s going to work on the day and getting each course ready in time. Make sure you’ve tried each dish at least once and you’re happy with it (you need to be confident cooking it – and for a lot more than you are perhaps used to!), and choose those which allow you to prep as much as you can in advance. This helps to ensure the food is ready on time and goes out hot.
2) Stick to a timetable on the day
Beforehand, I wrote out what needed to be done throughout the day in order and a rough time as to how long it would take. Approach your whole menu logically and work out what needs to be baked or cooked in advance, to chill, set or reheat later, and what needs to be done at the very last minute that needs to go out straight away.
This might sound a little boring and tedious, but honestly, it helped so much, especially when I panicked thinking time was running out; it’s surprising how quickly time flies!
3) Have someone on hand to help
Whether it’s decorating the venue, setting the tables, helping out with the washing up and taking meals out to your guests – you can’t do it on your own (even if you’re cooking for a small number of people, you will really appreciate the help!). I was lucky to have Alice, Laura and the lovely guys, Chris and Craig from the Post Box Cafe on hand to help me out when I need it, but rope in friends and family – offer them a drink or a pint later!
4) Make time to speak to your guests
Look after them! Your diners are there to not only eat your food, they want to see their host and find out more about the inspirations behind it all. The joy of a supper club is its personal nature; much more than just dining in a restaurant. Take a moment to welcome them at the beginning, and make sure to thank everyone at the end.
My supper club had a heavy social media focus, and I was keen for my guests to share their experiences through Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #SpamsSupperClub. Each person also had a gift tag at their place, which I asked them to fill in at the end with what they thought of the event in a few words. Followed by a gift bag to take home with some little health-related treats, these little touches add to the whole thing.
5) Try and stay calm – wing it!
I’m trying to apply this is all areas of my life: if I start to feel stressed or anxious, I tell my brain to calm down. Sounds mad, but it’s like resetting and changing my mindset, so that whatever I’m approaching doesn’t seem too daunting. It also helps to prepare for anything that might go wrong. Yes, I had a minor fail in the kitchen, but quickly thought on my feet and thought of an alternative, so it wasn’t a complete disaster!
On the night there was a point where I started to flap and things felt like they were going pear-shaped, but a quick pep talk with Alice and Laura and my own head telling me to chill out, the rest of the evening went smoothly. It works!
Over and done with, I’m still on a high from the night. What I had imagined in my head had played out much better and more enjoyable than expected, and it was amazing to see it come into fruition. Now I can’t wait to see the actual episode – stay tuned!
A quick thanks…
I just wanted to thank some people who were extra amazing on the day:
- The Post Box Cafe, Chorlton – Big thanks to Chris and Craig for letting me use their amazing space! Sorry for the mess 🙂
- The Atomized Entertainment crew – For asking me to do it and making it happen!
- Alice and Laura – For being absolute babes the whole day and evening, getting stuck in and helping out.
- Some amazing friends – For their wonderful support, giving me the confidence to do it and being amazing on social media on the night (my husband James, brother Andy, and top mates Sophie, Vicki, Beki, Vian and Holly deserve a shout!)
- Brands that contributed to the goody bags for my guests – Kaizen Living, Truvia, Pukka Herbs tea, Rust & Stone and Nutric8.