Write On! Online is excited about food writer Jenn Garbee’s new book: Secret Suppers: Rogue Chefs and Underground Restaurants in Warehouses, Townhouses, Open Fields, and Everywhere in Between, which was just released.
How did you get started?
Writing a Los Angeles Times article on underground restaurants created a snowball effect—both in my curiosity about these underground restaurants. I started pecking around, finding more and more across the country, and couldn’t stop. It was one of those instances of the story had long since been turned over to copy editors, and I kept piping up with “Oh! Wait! And this one!” There was so much more to tell than a newspaper article could portray.
Why did you write this book?
It started as simple curiosity—I didn’t know much about the underground restaurant movement. All I knew is that it sounded rather odd and illogical. Why would anyone host a dinner party, then charge their guests? And why would guests (customers, really) pay for the privilege of dining in an unfamiliar home, with a hodgepodge mix of people around the table, and who-knows-what quality of food? But the more undergrounds I experienced, the more fascinating they became (the unknown aspect of them is part of the appeal).
And throughout the process, I was searching for a way to define an underground, but ultimately came to the conclusion that there isn’t a set definition to describe what an underground restaurant is. It’s more what it is not—it’s not a dinner party where people (friends) are splitting the bill, it’s not a restaurant… it’s somewhere in between. A group of strangers dining at a home, in a field or wherever enjoying the company of 10 or 120 guests—and enjoying (or half-heartedly enjoying) food prepared by home cooks or professional chefs.
I tell people to go to one underground, and whether you love it or hate it, go to another—they are entirely different experiences. And that’s half the fun. It’s truly a new way to dine, socialize, and entertain.
What was your favorite part of the process?
The people. It’s consistently what I like most about reporting—delving into the nooks and crannies of people’s lives and leaning something from them. But here, it was even more pronounced—these underground hosts let me into their lives and dinners, knowing I was going to report on them, and the guests opened up to me about why they were there. At the end of the process I understood not only why this movement is happening, but why it’s happening right now.
For more information, go to Amazon.com
Tags: Author Q&A Jenn Garbee Secret Suppers Write On!