How to | Become a supper club host
To us foodies’ delight, exciting supper clubs are popping up all over. What could be better than immersing yourself into a new food culture for the night and be cooked for by an expert?
But how do you become a supper club chef and what makes a successful night? We spoke to Lerato Umah-Shaylor, who runs her Wild Africa supper clubs in Brighton and London, to find out. You can book her supper clubs here.
Use your cooking background
Growing up in Nigeria, my mum had a restaurant and that made me grow up with a curiosity of flavours.
At university in London I found that I really enjoyed cooking. People would go out drinking and clubbing, but I was spending my money eating out in nice restaurants, never Nandos. I’d go back home and try to recreate the dishes.
I studied economics and I went back to Nigeria and set up a gourmet pizzeria, became a TV chef and food writer. My first supper club was in Lagos, Nigeria.
Have a mission
At my supper club, I'm thrilled to share my contemporary African recipes with people who share my passion for food. My menu is a celebration of African provenance.
Ask people what they think of when they think of African food and most people are not going to know what to say. So I’m trying to introduce people to African food, showing how Africa is a wealth of culture.
I’m Nigerian, my husband’s British, and my mother-in-law is German, so a lot of my menus represent my true reality which is that I’m a global citizen.
Have a niche
There are so many supper clubs now and the reason people go is they’re looking for a connection or a new experience.
Having a particular niche means you’re offering people something they don’t know much about.
My niche is deeply rooted in African tradition, but using ingredients we’re blessed with in Britain. I’m serving African food because I want to share the wonder of it, but with ingredients that everyone can find. I’m not glorifying the exoticism of it - I want people to leave thinking about the recipes and wanting to try them in their own home.
You need a great team
My first supper club I had 60 people come, but it was a disaster! I underestimated the number of people I would need to help and because I love the process of cooking I made myself do everything. What I’ve learned is you can’t do everything even if you know it best.
You need to be able to train people to do it and take advantage of different people’s skills. Having a good team when running a supper club is very important - you have to run it as a restaurant.
Prep is essential
I do a lot of prep work so that during the supper club I’m present a lot. I’m not necessarily cooking while people are there. I’ve done it all.
I don’t have the image of the sweaty chef with the apron on - I want to be part of the group. I want to talk to every single person and share food stories.
So the best way is making sure you’re well prepped in advance and delegate as much as possible.
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