Till some time ago, fine dining was about dressing your best, going to the poshest restaurant you can afford and splurge on a royal dining experience. Thanks to places like The Supper Club, fine dining has a brand new meaning
Words Aninda Sardar
One of the perks of my profession is that I have, over the years, had the privilege of calling people more diverse than chalk and cheese, friends. So, on the one hand I can claim to be friends with some of India’s best race drivers and motorcycle racers. At the same time I am also friends with a bestselling author, a musician and an ace choreographer. In this list, somewhere near the top is Kanishka Sharma. Some of you might know her as The.Tenth.Muse on Instagram. It hasn’t been a long friendship but I’d like to think of it as one of the most easygoing friendships I have had in spite of the fact that it’s a long distance friendship. In fact, I had no idea of her charming existence till I met her in Bangalore (neither she, nor I like to call our old cities by their new names) for an entirely different story at The Courtyard. We connected straight off the bat, discovered common grounds and the banter that flowed over the next couple of hours was easy and refreshing. And that’s when I learned about The Supper Club.
No more than 20 diners for each edition of The Supper Club
By and large supper clubs are super exclusive events where strangers are invited for a specially curated dining experience. Most often in someone’s home. It’s obviously an invite only thingy and you can’t get a leg in unless someone knows someone who asks someone to let you in. The Tenth Muse’s Supper Club however is a little bit different in that you don’t need to know someone who knows someone. You just need to be piqued by the idea of food and stories to want to pay the fee and get a seat at the table. Provided of course the seats aren’t gone already, because while you may be hearing about it for the first time The Supper Club is actually pretty popular. “It is usually a small table, no more than 20 diners,” says Kanishka.
But what exactly is this supper club? “The Supper Club is a pop up dining experience where diners gather to partake in a specially created and curated meal. It is where strangers meet around a single table and bond over dishes created by chefs with incredible talent,” she explains. There is however a twist in this culinary tale for even when she’s doing something that has been done before Kanishka innovates. In this case, fusing food with stories. “Each iteration (of The Supper Club) will also need to feature a different theme or narrative. The only criterion is that they (the chefs) all tell a story with their food.”
The Supper Club vs a regular restaurant
The biggest difference between dining at The Supper Club and a restaurant is the level of freedom that the format allows the host. “Being in a restaurant comes with restrictions, even though at times, the thought of a fleet of people or a team makes me want to create the same environment for Supper Club! My first Supper Club was two years ago. I needed more creative freedom in the kitchen than a catering business would allow me. A chef’s platform, allowing chefs to cook with abandon. Very very few rules, where guests surrender to the experience,” Kanishka, aka The.Tenth.Muse, tells me.
The space for such alternative dining experiences, I don’t really know what else to call something like The Supper Club, is also expanding with people’s desires to experiment with food and dining experiences grow. Part of the reason, as Kanishka explains, is with the very nature of the culinary industry in our country. “Given recent restaurant closures, run-ins with authorities that are prone to arcane legalese, I think an alternative way to enjoy food is needed, required. Until we can sort ourselves out, acknowledge the restaurant industry as a massive contributor to economy, organise favourable legislation, and so on, people will look for every other way to excite their palate.”
The other part is the sheer novelty of the whole idea and the experience of The Supper Club. “My Supper Clubs, my food in general, demands a mutual engagement. To me, cooking is about chasing a high, like an addict. So I didn’t go down this path with sales numbers or scaling up in mind. If anything I hoped Supper Club would provide the fix when it was needed, an experience merited of your emotions, worthy of your time and patience.
My interests are varied, like my style. The books I read, the music I listen to, the films I watch. A lot of my menus are inspired by cities that have left a lasting impression, books that have a centre space in my library, memories from my mothers kitchen, and wholesome food and flavours that continue to appear on my dining table for my friends and family. Over the last few months, Pallavi Mehta and I have partnered up in this search for great food and dining experiences. I’m grateful to have a co-conspirator with similar ideals.”
Clearly Kanishka’s approach is paying dividends. “I have had the pleasure of hosting, cooking with and celebrating some amazing chefs. From coming out stories, to cultural narratives about home and geography to the revival of traditional ingredients and techniques. Each one has been completely different from the other. What is food without the multitude of social, political, cultural and traditional nuances ? Food that has meaning, where the flavours stimulate your imagination and provide information, is what keeps Supper Club alive. Being self aware and very clear about my vision for Supper Club is the driving force behind it being an independent entity. Being self taught has allowed me to create a niche for myself - where my guests, chefs and cooks who I collaborate with are curating an experience that isn’t available in this city,” she says matter-of-factly.
So how does one get a seat at the next Supper Club? That’s the easy bit. “You wait for an announcement on Instagram or you find a way, through word of mouth, to get on my broadcast list. That’s it.”