by Kylee Van Dillen, Editorial Assistant, The Liquid Muse
The term, “underground” has always piqued curiosity. A secret society conjures up a mysterious air of intrigue... exclusivity... for only a chosen few. So, it comes as no surprise that underground “dinner parties” are all the rage amongst a subculture of foodies.
But what exactly is an “underground dinner party?” They certainly have the mystique of an underground movement; usually one has to “know someone to get invited.” LA-based chef Amy Jurist describes them this way: "I like to say that Underground dinner parties are like food raves. Bootleg ‘restaurants’ in apartments, houses and other private spaces, where you get to dine with other fellow foodies, at locations you don’t find out about until after you’ve paid the entrance price."
Like any great chef, Amy finds inspiration from the ingredients on hand. Texture and flavor, “sauces and crunchy things” and all “decadent unctuous foods” have kept her experimenting in the kitchen since she was five years old, and spending last ten years honing her skills in culinary school, catering fancy private parties and whipping up delivered meals as a private chef for an exclusive clientele.
Along with a certain sense of pride for being a member of a club most people have never even heard of, these underground dinners offer some interesting perks. Unlike typical restaurants, “talking to your fellow diners—most of whom you usually don’t know—is encouraged.” They are also run by chefs whose true passion comes from the food—not the business, and do not generally aspire to become traditional restaurateurs. Without the overhead or investors for which an established restaurant would be responsible, these chefs are given free reign to use their imaginations and ultimately, have fun. They’re not in it “for the money,” they're in it, “for the community and the creative freedom, the opportunity to showcase our food to people who appreciate it,” in a mysterious and unique setting.
So, how does one actually get invited to an underground dining event? Just like when job hunting or trying to score tickets to a sold out show, knowing someone helps. If not, there are a few websites accessible to those who spend most of their time “above ground.” The Ghetto Gourmet, for one, lists local underground restaurants all over the country.
Amy's next event is on January 31st and features a mix of dishes (and drinks) from Thailand, Japan, the Philippines and China, for $65 per person. Chances are this one may already be booked, so email Amy for confirmation, and to pry out when the next dinners might occur. You could be among the first to know. And, you may even be eligible for special tips and discounts via The Liquid Muse. (Welcome to the club.)