Strangers: Bring a Knife to My House

Meet rogueApron. 

Atlanta’s Original Underground Supperclub.

100 % Volunteer, 100 % Awesome.

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IS THIS A RESTAURANT?

Nope! This is about people getting together over food.

I plan the meals, find the location, and organize all the volunteers.

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WHO COOKS?

Anyone who wants to! We request volunteers for each dinner. We work with home cooks, aspiring caterers and restaurant pros on their nights off.

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WHO EATS?

Everyone is welcome.

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Q & A

Here's an email interview I did with Bob Townsend of the AJC as he was working on a longer story about the Atanta underground dining scene. 

 

Generally, I’d like to get your take on the underground dining scene, especially anything you think has been missed or misconstrued in previous stories.

Great question! Thanks for asking.

Most of the news coverage on the underground scene is either a trend/style piece or food porn. Writers paint these scenes of fancy meals or secretive meetups. These are seductive details; I understand why most writers stop at this level. But I think there are much more interesting stories to be told. Who goes to these underground dinners? Why have 2,000 people joined the rogueApron mailing list? What is missing from people’s experiences with food – in restaurants, in their grocery stores, in their meals at home – that so many of us are excited join a underground dining community?

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I think we are a point in which we crave authenticity: food that is sourced ethically and cooked with care, the chance to meet other people who are passionate about their lives and active in their communities. I think that this is the most compelling aspect of the underground dining scene – it is truly the guests.
 

What inspired you to start rogueApron and what’s your food/cooking background (chef? home cook? in other food groups or organizations?)

I identify as a cook – I do not have formal training. I have worked in the restaurant business as a cook with some enormously talented chefs – I respect their craft enormously and would never claim that title for myself.

As for why rogueApron started … oh, sometimes I don’t know! No, the more honest answer is that I was at a place in my life where I had absolutely nothing to lose. And thankfully, I quickly met a lot of other people who wanted to be a part of it.

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Underground dinners are as much Sixties-style happenings as food events, and a way to intersect with like-minded people ... Lady Rogue calls her club, which attracts a devoted group of socially conscious diners and often features random acts of kindness, like free pie giveaways, “the absolute best thing that has ever happened to me.”
— ATLANTAN Magazine

Lisa Hanson tells me you were involved in last Labor Day’s picnic for better food in schools…..(movement started by Alice Waters and championed by Michelle Obama)….How does that tie in to rogueApron?

1/3 of children born after 1990 will develop Type II diabetes; 1/4 will end up overweight or obese. These are startling facts, but it’s no surprise if you look at a school cafeteria tray filled with processed foods, sodas and chips. It’s a sad truth that fresh vegetables are more expensive than junk calories. Children from low-income families should not suffer life-long health problems because our food system is skewed. Essentially, the more I learned about the Farm to School movement (Thanks Erin Croom at Georgia Organics!), the more I felt that it was just the right thing to do, to help out as best I could. I knew that the rogueApron community would be eager to get involved in such a worthy cause – we had about 80 rockstar volunteers who passed out fliers, informed their community groups, and recruited friends to attend the protest.

 

I understand you also organize entrepreunerial meet-ups to help people share resources and ideas….

Yep! The Lady Rogue Business Network was a natural offshoot of the rogueApron community. We are all about supporting sustainable local businesses, especially those that are run by female entrepreneurs – although men are welcome! “Loconomy” is the term, and we’re all about supporting our fellow entrepreneurs – including farmers, designers, crafters, shop-owners and jam makers.

 

I hear you have a fairly small house and kitchen (as we all do in this part of town), but you obviously love to entertain… Was that an impetus for Rogue Apron?

Three years ago, the recession nabbed my journalism job; I didn’t have much besides a wok, two wooden spoons, my laptop and a suitcase of clothes. I had literally nothing to lose by trying out my own ideas.

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I think you’ve collaborated with East Atlanta Brewery.

Yes, we have collaborated with them – they are close friends of ours, and we usually pair beers with the menu. Either they brew something to fit a theme (for example an Irish Red Ale for our St. Patricks’ Day Feast) or we plan a dinner around their brew (a Coconut Extravaganza based around the delicious Roasted Coconut Porter).

Nothing with wineries yet; I love beer so the dinners stick in this realm. 

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What is the most exotic/unusual place you’ve held a dinner?

The Drive-In gets my vote for the most unusual.

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Have there been fiascos/crashers/cooking problems/weather issues?

We’ve been really lucky … the only problem we ever had was with our first dinner, scheduled literally the day after the March 2008 Atlanta tornado. Our corned beef had been aging for weeks in EAB Porter, and we had to scramble in downed power lines, trees, and ferocious rain to fetch ice to keep it nice and cold. We rescheduled the dinner, and all was well.
 

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You have people host events in their home/business, correct? What does someone need to do/provide to be a host for an underground dinner?


Good question, and yes. It’s more of a timing/space/personality fit than anything else.

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FEATURE

Uncovering the mystery and allure of underground supper clubs

By Jane Black


TO GET TO THE DINNER, THE GUESTS MAKE their way down a dark alley, past a series of run-down houses. Then they see it: a porch at the end of the road lit with thrift-store chandeliers and flickering brass candelabras. This row of homes, built for newly freed slaves who worked on the Atlanta railroad, was abandoned years ago and is usually empty.

And yet, here people are, digging into homemade bread, a salad of local, organic greens and a vat of Slovenian stew, which is, to the relief of the young, adventurous organizers, pretty good.

The recipe that called for bacon, roasted pork, kidney, sauerkraut and potatoes came from a total stranger, one mysterious “Tatjana,” who met the food-obsessed hosts online and mailed the recipe in on a postcard.

Despite the seemingly unseemly setting, the 30 attendees consider themselves lucky to pay $25 for this culinary experience. The dinner, organized by rogueApron, an underground supper club in Atlanta, is one of the hottest tickets in the city. Nearly 2,000 people vie for a seat at the secret get-togethers, which take place every four to six weeks. Guests are notified about the dinners two weeks before and find out the location on the day they are scheduled to arrive.

RogueApron’s first event—the one that sealed its reputation— was scheduled for March 14, 2008. That day, a tornado ripped through the city, blowing out windows and, more importantly as far as rogueApron was concerned, knocking out electricity. For two weeks prior, the ringleader, a digital media master’s student who identifies herself as Lady Rogue, had been brining corned beef in dark porter beer. Without refrigeration, the precious meat would start to spoil. And so Lady Rogue and her loyal friends braved the rain and downed power lines to procure enough ice to save dinner. The meal was rescheduled for two days later and 30 people showed up.

“That was when we first got the inkling that this was going to be big,” Lady Rogue writes in an email (she only grants anonymous interviews in order to keep her identity a secret). [con’td]

 
 
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CREDITS

So many awesome people to thank! All the volunteers, of course. Branding courtesy JillBrunner.com.

Plan B: Keeping the Plates Spinning

Plan B: Keeping the Plates Spinning

Building Lady Rogue

Building Lady Rogue