The Secret is Out | Short Order Blog

A quick perusal on foodie social media shows that one of the latest food trends in Richmond are supper clubs such as Social Club RVA, with diners gathering at various eateries for curated dinners. And one of the newest is proving to be one of the most ambitious. Secret Supper Society, the brainchild of Miles Gordon and James Crump-Wallace, seeks to transform the traditional notion of what a supper club can be while reaching a wider range of diners.

The pair first met when Gordon needed T-shirts printed for an event and approached Crump-Wallace. Gordon, an Oakland, Calif. native who works in government relations at Virginia Commonwealth University and has lived in the Richmond area for a decade, discovered a shared love of food and trying new restaurants with Crump-Wallace, owner and operator of The Spot, a creative production space. It wasn’t long until an idea to create something that would allow people to connect over food sprouted.

The precursor to supper clubs has its roots in Prohibition-era roadhouses and speakeasies, where folks would gather to eat, drink, dance, and listen to jazz bands. However, it is widely held that after Prohibition ended, the first official supper club was started in Beverly Hills, California by Lawrence Frank, whose company, Lawry’s, is a seasoning staple in most American pantries. In the 1930s at Frank’s supper club, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, patrons dined on salad, prime rib, baked potato, and Yorkshire pudding for $1.25.  

Supper clubs were more than restaurants, as diners would typically spend an entire evening that included dinner and entertainment. Once alcohol was legal again, the secretive spots where folks would gather became highly visible and were often decorated in elaborate Art Deco designs. 

The Secret Supper Society, however, has a different take on what a supper club should be, and Gordon and Crump-Wallace put thought into what would separate their club from others, and decided to choose venues that weren’t restaurants. In addition, the location and theme are kept secret until two days prior to the event, adding a clandestine feel for ticket holders.

Crump-Wallace stressed that he wants to ensure that guests have a unique experience when they attend one of the dinners. “You won’t have the same experience twice, and our goal is to be intentional with each dinner. Once you have one menu, it will not repeat. It’ll never look or feel the same. You’ll try something new, see something you haven’t seen before,” he says. 

“It feels like a family environment, and it’s a space that’s open for everyone, and for people who enjoy fine dining,” says Crump-Wallace. Gordon adds, “We place an emphasis on the programming and the aesthetic, the food, the table setting.” 

The first dinner at 1708 Gallery, held on Oct. 1 this year, sold out in a week, and the duo enlisted chef Bobo Catoe of Alewife and Odyssey to helm the menu.

“Jimmy [Crump-Wallace] made the point that he wanted it to be fine dining for people who have been left out of fine dining, and he said that it was about a culture aspect not a color aspect, which made me feel more comfortable,” says Catoe. 

He chose a creative and approachable menu, which included oysters, short ribs, and scallops.

The venue didn’t have a kitchen, and the meal was finished on “two plug-ins and hope,” says Catoe. 

Both Gordon and Crump-Wallace believe Richmond is an ideal place to host Secret Supper Society dinners, as the diversity in cuisines is growing rapidly. “There are chefs trained in all types of techniques and cuisines,” says Gordon. “We want to shine a light on the Richmond food scenes and chefs.” 

The pair plan to not only have more dinners in 2024, but also plan to include panel discussions and live music to enhance the dining experience, and Catoe is excited to see what’s next. “There are new people doing new things. People who are not hospitality workers and that puts a new spin on the thing,” he says. 

To learn more about Secret Supper Society and be the first to know about their next dinner, click here.

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