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Dinner Club

Maura Friedman

Why you should start a dinner club


Dinner clubs aren't snobby — you should start one now

Why is it that phrases like “dinner club” and “wine club” are often associated with exclusivity and snobbery? Isn’t a club just a group of people, who share a common interest, getting together to discuss, share and enjoy that shared interest? And who isn't interested in dinner?

A dinner club is a group of people who get together on a regular basis (often monthly) to enjoy a themed potluck meal at someone’s house. Think: Italian night, taco Tuesday, creative Cajun. Snobby? No! A great way to meet new friends, connect with old friends, make new recipes, learn more about food and cooking, and enjoy an evening of great conversation? Yes. 

If you need more convincing on why you should hop on this bandwagon, here are a few reasons to start a dinner club in 2018:

Structured, committed social engagement
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to coordinate schedules with friends because we’re all so busy with work and home life. Months go by without seeing some of my dearest friends or engaging with potential new friends. A dinner club offers the structure and commitment that makes people more likely to stay engaged.

You might learn something new
Okay, you will definitely learn something new. Whether you’re making a new recipe or enjoying a unique dish, you will open yourself and your palate up to unfamiliar, yet delicious, flavors and tastes. You’ll share these experiences with your club, and conversations will open up — you'll quickly find yourself having interesting and meaningful discussions about food, culture, current events and more. 

Food connects people
At Southern Kitchen, we subscribe to the idea that when you share a meal, you share a connection. Meaningful and lasting relationships are built around the table, and chances are you will create new and stronger friendships with your fellow members. Your dinner club has the potential to become a core group of friends.
So, now that you’re starting a dinner club (see how easy that was?), here’s how to get started:

Create the invite list
I recommend a combination of new friends/acquaintances and old friends, but make sure that each person knows at least one other person in the group so everyone feels comfortable. Keep the list anywhere between 6 and 10, but smaller groups tend to be better — you can all fit around the table easily. It's important to tell your invitees that they don't have to be "foodies" (a pretentious and isolating term) to enjoy learning, cooking and eating. Make sure you communicate that the club is about experimentation, exploration and connection; it's not about how good of a cook you are or aren't. A dinner club is intended to be a lighthearted and enjoyable way to get together with people.

Pick the frequency, but make sure you’re realistic
Monthly is probably the most frequent you’ll want to meet, because it will take time to pick a date, select a theme and give everyone time to choose their dish. Every other month and quarterly are also options, depending on the level of commitment in which your group is interested. For scheduling, either select a consistent day — like the second Thursday of every month — or use a scheduling tool like Doodle to select a date that works for everyone.

Choose whether you’ll assign dishes or let people volunteer
Depending on the group, you can make this call on a case-by-case basis or decide once the group is set. Typically a meal should consist of an appetizer, main dish and a salad, plus a side or two, a bread, dessert and drinks. If your group is on the larger side, you can double up on appetizers and sides. 

Decide who will host, or if you’ll do a rotating host schedule
The host should pick the theme and make the main dish. Of course, table setting and music is also the host’s responsibility. (Have you seen Southern Kitchen’s playlists? We have several to fit a variety of themes for all kinds of occasions!)

Get started! 
You've got your why and your how, so all that's left is for you to take action. Have questions or need advice? You can always email me at editor@southernkitchen.com and I'll be happy to help troubleshoot or give advice and tips. 

Pro Tips:

  • Skip out on work a few hours early on dinner club days — especially if you’re hosting! There’s nothing more stressful than trying to rush home, whip something up and be ready for dinner club.
  • Pick dishes that you can make (or at least prep) in advance. 
  • Make your recipe at least once. It can be disheartening if a dish doesn’t come out as expected and you have to serve it to people. Go confidently into dinner club knowing that you’ve made your best dish.
  • On that same note, make sure to expect mess-ups and roll with them. Dinner club should be stress-free and fun!

Photo Credit (brunch): Ramona King
Photo Credit (outdoor meal): Maura Friedman

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Ashley Twist Cole is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also an on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. Ashley rarely makes the same recipe twice and loves to experiment in the kitchen. After graduating from UGA, she spent several years working in digital strategy for brands including Chick-fil-A, Nike and Coca-Cola. Prior to joining Southern Kitchen, she was the manager of AccessAtlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s things to do and entertainment brand, where she fell in love with Atlanta’s dining scene. Ashley will travel almost anywhere for a good meal and great cocktail, but her favorite place to be is in her own kitchen with her husband Josh and son Whit, trying new recipes and mixing up cocktails.