The Blind Pig Supper Club followers & fans of the Primus album Pork Soda clicked the ticket link immediately, as if Les Claypool himself would be the entertainment. They knew that the affordable price would go farther than paying for a meal, even if that meal was more stellar than any one restaurant would provide.[dropcap letter=”A”] membership in The Blind Pig Supper Club of Asheville or Raleigh guarantees email announcements of upcoming dinners, as well as notices of pop-ups, or previously unscheduled events like Pork Soda. The venue remains a mystery until the day of the event, and even the menu is kept secret until the meal begins.
UNLESS YOU DRINK PORK SODA, B.Y.O.B.
Candler, NC is a 20-minute drive from the city limits of Asheville. After driving the curvy, up and downhill roads, the destination will make you drop your shoulders and breathe deeply. That’s how guests of the Blind Pig Supper Club felt when they arrived, along with the building anticipation of the great meal to come.
Parking in the field next to the Barn at Glady, we marveled at the incredible mountain views before us. Tables filled up quickly with folks who traveled from all over, from Greenville, SC to Raleigh, NC. Diners were already meeting their dinner companions for the evening and sharing beer growlers and wine bottles like they were old friends. In a way they were; this common passion for good food and preserving community is a tie that binds culture and distance.
THE FIRE WAS LIT
In Spring 2011, chefs Mike Moore, Mark Rosenstein, and Jael and Dan Rattigan collaborated on an evening billed as “Fire and Chocolate,” complete with fire-pit cooking and French Broad Chocolates, of Asheville, starring in each course. As dusk faded to night, guests watched thrilling fire performance artists and an amazing display of homemade fireworks from chef Chef Rosenstein. With this success Moore, along with wife Darlene, jumped right into the underground supper club venture. Realizing they could skip the cost of investing in a brick-and-mortar restaurant, they jumped at the chance to use their talents and energies to provide delicious meals for friends, build awareness to support a sustainable food chain, and give the community financial support.
The patchwork of local chefs, artisans, and food lovers who weave stories, history, music, and art with food has grown exponentially with each event. The Moores, along with this ever-expanding group of talent, have brought food to the table at over 150 unique supper concepts. Each event is partnered with a charity or nonprofit that will receive all proceeds from ticket sales; close to 100 local and national organizations have been given monetary support. To put it more simply, in less than 5 years, thousands of people have given financially to others in need.
Once the initial inspiration for the dinner party concept is drafted, Moore begins building his team, reaching out to two or more regional chefs to collaborate on the event. For the chefs, it is a chance to experiment with their cooking talents, raising the bar on culinary trends and preparing food for guests that will open their eyes to new tastes. But most importantly it is a chance to stretch creatively.
As for Chef Moore, you can see that he enjoys pulling together a diverse group of cooks whose individual backgrounds channel into the dinner theme. Clearly he thrives on introducing the talents of one to the other. For the Pork Soda menu that honored the whole animal and flavors that go into making charcuterie, he invited an impressive group of chefs, butchers, and business owners: Andrew McCleod, from Nashville, TN, made the charcuterie at Husk for Chef Sean Brock; JT Debrie, owner of Intentional Swine, and Charles Lee, owner of The American Pig, both chefs and butchers specializing in whole animal butchery and charcuterie; Robin Kline, chef at Zambra Tapas & Wine Bar; and Jill Wasilewski, pastry chef/owner of Ivory Road Cafe and Kitchen.
Though the chefs may have never met before the prep day in the kitchen, they are comrades as they cook. For every event, when it is time to plate a course, it’s “all hands on deck.” Moore strides into the kitchen with a 5-minute alert, signaling the chef next up to assemble a sample plate and all chefs to stand by. On “go,” everyone drops what they are doing and groups around the plating table. The process of arranging, garnishing, swiping sauces, and wiping plates that could render chaos is much more like a choreographed dance. In three or so minutes, all of the perfectly beautiful plates are ready for serving.
One of Moore’s goals is to bring together a community of chefs to share their strengths and ideas, with the belief that the giving and receiving of knowledge and goodwill builds healthy and delicious food communities. As the assembled chefs take this experience back to their own futures, they do so with renewed commitment to sustaining the Appalachian foodways.
For those who help with the event – photograph, cook, serve, clean, and schlep at every Blind Pig event – the story is different. They have been there from the start and know each other well; they’re an integral part of the Blind Pig production crew. They are a well-choreographed, professional team. Darlene Moore said, “These volunteers are like family to us. They’ve been with us from the beginning, and now each event is a smooth process.”
And so the circle goes unbroken, thanks to the community of individuals with big hearts, a great deal of talent, and the foresight and wherewithal to keep the wheel turning.
Written by Debby Maugans / Photogrpahy by Erin Adams