It was hard in the beginning....I didn’t know a thing,. Like many I’d lived in a world of work, school run, supermarket, collapseI was forced to rethink and my whole outlook changed. I was skint, unemployed, in debt and struggled to pay bills, feed my family and live.But I had time so I started to investigate my local suppliers withlittle money to shop at produce marketsWe only ate well when supper club was on and there were occasions when I had to cancel supper club because I couldn't afford to run itI even turned my hand to a bit of ‘freeganing’when I realised how much food supermarkets discardedInstead I met people, told them what I was doing., networked and bored people endlessly with supper club talk.I wrote the blog and slowly began writing more about the food being produced around me., about our supper club nights, the produce I used and the producers themselves.Over that first year I got to know lots of wonderful local producers, built a solid reputation and made fans and friends along the way
Play to your strengthsDon’t try and emulate others
In two years my way of life totally changed.....I now questioned everything about the supermarket.They did not support the local economy, rarely stocked local produce, paid producers a pittance, clocked up food miles by importing out of season produce, which was not of a great quality and produced huge amounts of food waste.By little stint of freegan living demonstrated just how wasteful supermarkets are....and how much food goes into the bin (when there is nothing wrong with it).Recycling helped me stock my restaurant when I had nothing...charity shops, boot fairs, passed on goodsMy whole business reputation has been built on my use of local produce.....people now come to me if they are trying to source something locally!!
January 2011 I registered as self-employed. I stopped looking for a ‘proper’ job and turned to food as my new career Moel Faban Suppers was born.I wasn’t sure how it would work out but with my now well established network of friends and contacts, fans and supporters I had to give it a try.It was slow to get going. I had little income and ticked over on the tiny bit of profit I made from supper club. Just as I was beginning to wonder if I’d made the right decision I won a contract to crew cater for the Green Man festival and my first wedding.
The highlight of last year had to be Global Feast...the cooking extravaganza that run concurrently with the Olympics.I cooked on British food night and it couldn’t have been any more about British Produce!!Penderyn whisky sponsored me....as did The Tomato Stall, Steinberg's, The mushroom Garden and MoelyciThat is what the food critic of the Huffington Post said....I loved it as it sums up what I have been trying to achieve
Denise - Supper Club Presentation
FBC#5 CommunitySaturday July 6th JulyHow to launch a supper clubDr Denise Baker-McClearnMoel Faban Supper Club
About me• Trained as a chef aged eighteen• Went back to college, studied for a degree and subsequentlyworked as a health & forensic psychologist for 16 years• Made redundant May 2009• Miserable, depressed and unable to find an inspiring job in research• August 2009 read about supper clubs in London• Decided I wanted to start one to cheer me up• I did some research, spoke to a few people who were doing it• I spent the last of my redundancy money and first lot of dole moneyon plates, cutlery & glasses from the boot fair• September 2009 started planning my first event• October 2009 opened
What is a supper club?• A supper club is usually run from a private home• It by-passes legislation covering registered restaurants• Overheads are lower so you can splash out on the best ingredients• They are like paying dinner parties (but you just don’t happen to knowthe host or who you will be dining with)• Most supper clubs don’t make a huge profit, they do it for the love offood and entertaining• It’s an opportunity for the cook/chef to try out new dishes andexperiment• Guests get to taste new foods and pay less than a conventionalrestaurant• Guests bring their own wine and alcohol as most supper clubs are notlicensed• Its a great way to get experience in the food industry without a hugefinancial outlay
Planning to start a supper club• I had no idea what I was doing• I’d never read let alonewritten a food blog• I’d never actually been to asupper club• I didn’t know if a supper clubwould work in Wales becauseno it had never been tried• I didn’t know if people wouldcome• I made it up as I went alongI• Make a plan and do someresearch• Visit other supper clubs• Speak to other people thathave run or are runningsupper clubs• Think about what youlike/dislike about othersupper clubs you havevisited?• Do you already have a fanbase/potential list ofcustomers?
Why run a supper club?• To experiment with new dishes and recipes• Meet new people and entertain• See what it would be like to run a restaurant• Precursor to a job in the food industry• Make some extra money• For fun or as a hobby• To be part of a community of supper clubhosts
My supper club• My supper club is a family venture. We are all involvedin serving, waitressing and cleaning up• Food is usually modern British and European becausethat’s what our customers like• Private dinners provide the opportunity to cook to atheme or experiment more• I use lots of Welsh locally grown and sourced produce• I didn’t do any anything else to sell the idea...I wasunique in Wales!• Since 2009 the supper club has changed andevolved, but still stayed close to that format
Establishing your own niche• What are you doing that is special ordifferent?• Why will people want to come to you?• Do you cook a particular cuisine?• What is your selling point?• Where are you sourcing your produce?
What else are you offering?• Live music or entertainment• Poetry, readings• Quiet and intimate• A catalyst for interesting conversation• Art installations• Theatre
Advertising• I advertise via my blog, FB, Twitter and mailing list• When I first started I ran up some flyers andpinned them in prominent places -cafes, community spaces• For wider coverage you could approach the localpress to see if they would like to do an editorialor an interview (this doesn’t cost anything)• Register with and list dates on ms marmite loversFind a Supper Club website which is the foremost‘go to’ site for supper club fans
How to set pricesCan depend on....• How many you are cooking for? -Don’t try to ram them in...this issupposed to be an enjoyable experience and don’t overstretchyourself- only do what is comfortable and stress free• What is your aim? – This isn’t really something to do if you wantto make money. Prices should perhaps just cover costs and maybetime.• Where you are based. I could never charge £40 a head...peoplecouldn’t afford it and wouldn’t come.• Your budget? I was skint when I started....I ran it on a shoe-string.Most people that run supper clubs have considerably moredisposable income than I did. I got creative...boot fairs/charityshops supplied much of my crockery and cutlery.• How much you have to invest? (plates, glasses, equipment)• Whether suppliers will give you an account/wholesale prices?
Staffing• From kitchen helpers towaitresses...who will behelping you?• Are you planning to do iton your own?• Working out the logisticsis important. I usuallyhave a kitchenhelper/washer-upper anda waitress. More thanthat get in the way...lessmeans its a bit chaotic
So now you’ve planned and your readyto open....• Keep it simple to begin with....well cooked, triedand tested food that you know works• Hold a ‘soft’ opening with invitedguests, friends, family• We did this and asked guests to provide feedbackon dishes, service and so on• Don’t leave it too long before you hold an‘official’ opening...ours was a fully bookedevening with twelve strangers. It all felt a littlesurreal
Patience and time• In some places it can take awhile to get going• Word of mouth will buildreputation• Don’t be afraid to changeand evolve• Don’t worry if one month itsnot full...or you can’t run it• Stick with it (if you want tothat is!)
Why it worked for me• Strong sense of community we have in Wales meant oncemy reputation was established, my followers stayed loyal.• We don’t have so many great places to eat out at areasonable price...so people come back to me again andagain.• I cook good food with love and care, people see that andrespect it.• I offer a good deal so people don’t feel ripped off orcheated...hey leave well fed• I listen to customer feedback, adapt, change, tweakprices...I have to keep moving with the times and withfamily demands• I enjoy it too much to give it up
Food OlympicsBy now the Red Arrows have soared overhead and the opening ceremony is aboutto start. Denise Baker-McClearns Welsh dessert of apple and cinnamon tart withBara brith ice cream and vanilla salted caramel is the perfect accompaniment toDanny Boyles idyll of sheep and green fields. Theres even a glass of smooth andslightly honeyed Penderyn whiskey, her local distillery, to wash it down. As thespectacle rumbles on, we drink more champagne and reflect that weve had thebest of British on our plates, and now, on TV, the world is getting a glimpse of thesame thing. Rupert Parker; Huffington Post, 6/08/2012