As Ma Rani and I approach our second year of hosting our supperclub, I thought I would reflect on how we got started and why supperclubs in general still continue to thrive nationally and internationally.
When we hosted our first supperclub back in October 2009 we really didn’t know what to expect or indeed how best to run the evening. All we knew was that Ma and I would plan the menu together, do the food prep and once the evening was underway I would take charge of ‘front of house’ and Ma would continue with the cooking and I would step into the role of ‘su chef’ in the kitchen. I suppose Ma’s teaching background and my stage management background gave us both good grounding for organisation and people skills and my years of always wanting to help her get ready for her own supper parties meant that I knew how to create a decent looking table as well!
So after many months of talking about how we could do more with our cooking and love of supper parties we thought it might be quite a nice idea to host our own. But how does one even go about starting? I hope in this blog I can let you into a few ideas I had which helped us along the way and now without having to do too much advertising we have a working mailing list and regular guests who keep coming back and we love to cook for them!
Pa Graham handed me a box file during the summer of 2009 full of Ma’s recipes for her book that she started writing back in the early 1980’s when I could just about make a piece of toast. With over 200 recipes there were also letters from publishers saying thanks but no thanks, Madhur Jeffrey has the market on Indian Cuisine and nobody could compete with her. Ma didn’t want to compete she just wanted to share her cooking style with other people. Look at the cookery book market now! So Ma did start hosting supperclubs, but not for long as my brothers came along and full time teaching beckoned. The local papers did some lovely articles about her when she was getting going and only last year the Islington Gazette did a ‘revisit’ to interview both of us (the photographer ended up with a plate of food!) So with supper clubbing a no go Ma catered for other people’s supper parties instead. With me in toe she continues to do almost 30 years later. So you can see where I came into the picture, having told mum I had gone through the box file there was no excuse and with two of us working together we could give her idea of the supper party another go.
First things first, I found Ms Marmite Lover’s website ‘Fans of the Underground Restaurant’ which helped us immensely in finding a platform for our supperclub. Ms Marmite herself has been extremely supportive and even came to one of our first supperclubs and did a lovely write up of the evening. For free you can register yourself and your supperclub on her website, and using your own page write regular blogs, post photos and add your events. The website has almost 3,000 members and is growing daily. Do also have a look at her book which is a great homage to the supperclub and gives you lots of recipes and advice on how to start your own.
I then set up this blog. Having no background in writing (I don’t think A’level English counts even if I spent my entire two years writing literary essays!) the first few blog posts are little random –as you will see in the archive pages. I wanted to give the website a bit of a kick start so I was writing anything and everything about food and our cooking. Having not been particularly savvy with various computer programs I navigated my way around creating a look for our blog page and adding different applications which we have on the site today. There are plenty of companies who offer free websites, wordpress being one of them and is so easy to set up! Ma and I love blogging now and we really do write about anything and everything! It is a great way for people to read about what you do and we always try to include lots of photos of every supperclub, including a write up of the evening. I always take photos – one tip though, do let guests know, usually they don’t mind but some people don’t want to be snapped which is completely understandable. Sometimes guests take their own photos which is great!
Social networking sites have been a good platform too, we have a facebook page and a facebook group that I update regularly and we have a good following. Twitter is brilliant as well, although it took me a little longer to get to grips with it. People who follow us have booked via Twitter so you never know where your guests will find out about you. The Food Bloggers Association website run by Julia Parsons is really good as well. Primarily for food bloggers, us supperclub hosts are allowed to post our events and we also have a page on the site. Finally word of mouth has served us the most to which we are extremely grateful for guests suggesting us to family and friends as an ‘alternative’ Saturday evening out.
So why are supperclubs still appealing to people? From talking to our own guests and having been to different supperclubs ourselves it is really about a unique way of trying food from all over the world. We have such a diverse community in the UK that one can be very lucky in being able to try authentic Vietnamese family recipes one night, Italian another, Spanish, Ethiopian, Indian, French…the list goes on. If you love your food and for good measure enjoy supper parties and meeting new people then supper clubbing if most definitely for you. If like us, you had thought about starting your own then I say what are you waiting for! Give it a go! There are so many of us who want to try your fabulous cooking. It is hard work and does take a lot of planning but is well worth it.
We don’t have an official finishing time at Joginder’ Supperclub, the record so far as been taxis’ at 3am. Ma and I always sit down once we have finished cooking and serving all the courses. It is a great way to meet the people you have been cooking for and gives Ma a chance to talk more about the food (they get me warbling on for most of the evening!) Even Pa Graham makes an appearance with a glass Calvert in hand.
We are looking forward to next week and coming very soon are our dates for the rest of the year including our birthday supperclub. We look forward to cooking for you and continuing with our ‘little supperclub in good old Tufnell Park’.
See you at the table!