Earlier this month, Chef Carmenia Morgan Tyrus presented an authentic five-course Liberian meal to more than 50 Chow Club Atlanta guests in a brand-new Lindbergh area office building atrium. Chef Tyrus served up plantains with corn beef hash gravy, sweet potato greens with smoked meats, coconut candy, homemade ginger beer and more, while sharing stories and pepper sauce.
“It was amazing!” Chef Tyrus shared. “The guests really enjoyed the food and asked me a lot of questions.” Chef Tyrus migrated to the U.S as a teenager and spent 25+ years in nursing before becoming a chef and running Musulyn ‘s Catering & Events Planning.
The monthly pop-up supper club, Chow Club Atlanta, brings chefs and members together in a way that’s mutually respectful and beneficial.
“It’s about celebrating cultures through food,” Chow Club co-founder, Amanda Plumb said.
It’s also about supporting small business owners.”
Ciao Chow on June 17 and 18 will feature Chef Deborah Kudelka’s Italian creations including arugula soup, eggplant “meatballs”, Nutella stuffed crepes with coffee/liqueur sauce.
“It’s not going to be things you’ve seen on an Italian menu before,” Plumb said. Kudelka is a private chef with 20 years in the Atlanta restaurant and catering industry. Up next in July, Cantonese cuisine. Each dinner includes vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.
The idea for Chow Club was sparked when Plumb asked Yohana Solomon to cater a traditional Ethiopian dinner for her friends.
“I used to organize Atlanta Underground Market, a pop-up food event that promoted small businesses – mostly refugee and immigrant chefs,” Chow Club co-founder Solomon said. “Amanda was a member and volunteer. One day Amanda asked if I could recommend a great Ethiopian restaurant. I said ‘my house’.”
Solomon knew a lot of chefs. Plumb had friends who loved to eat. “What if we started hosting once a month?” they pondered.
Since then and despite a 466-day COVID-19 pause, the venture has served more than 4,000 guests at 83 dinners from 34 different cultures including Syria, Antigua, Korea, Afghanistan, Hungary, Morocco, Nigeria, the Philippines and more.
Interested chefs submit a menu for consideration.
“We invite them for a tasting,” Plumb said.” We have a photographer take photos for our website and social media and share them with the chefs to help build their brands.”
Chow Club lets chefs focus on the food while they handle everything else.
“We find the venue, do the marketing, do the ticket sales, figure out tables, chairs, volunteers and all of that,” Plumb said.
Participating chefs range from James Beard nominees, like Parnass Savang of Talat Market, to those who’ve never cooked for 50+ people, like Christian Lopez, a middle school teacher who does pop-ups on the side (@humocuisine, June 5 at O4W market and June 25 at Three Taverns in Decatur).
“I was super excited to give a good representation of what Colombians eat – street food [empanadas and buñuelos] – because we grew up humble”, Lopez said. I had my grandma come help me and everyone was able to meet her.” Veteran Chow Club chefs Wellington Onyenwe and Marlena Joseph also volunteered alongside Lopez.
And Lopez returned the favor to Chef Tyrus last month. The experience extends well beyond the food.
“My favorite was the Syrian dinner we hosted during the Muslim travel ban,” Solomon said. “We met a mother and son Syrian refugees, who feared not being accepted. Especially the son. He was protective of his family and didn’t know how he fit in this new world. We asked them to do Chow Club. They were very happy but nervous. The tickets sold out fast. The day of the dinner there was much joy to connect with them and make them feel welcome. The son – you know – cried. He was very touched and felt appreciated and welcome. We have the best members, they are all about supporting community.”
Membership is free and acquired by joining the mailing list or purchasing a ticket to a dinner. Fittingly, members receive a passport to collect a stamp per cuisine. After receiving five stamps, they become Ambassadors and get first crack at tickets.
At the dinner, members find fellowship when seated alongside new friends from different backgrounds and zip codes.
“One of our first-time guests pulled me aside and said, ‘Yes the food is amazing, but we were just having the best conversation’,” Plumb shared. “We don’t do any conversation prompts – we’ve never had too.”
Volunteering is another way to experience Chow Club.
“Volunteers come an hour early to help set up, work as servers and help out in the kitchen,” Plumb said. “You really get to know the chef, see behind the scenes and eat!”
Chow Club is also looking for a home base with a big meeting room, full kitchen and parking.
Experience it for yourself.
“It takes you to a street in Colombia or to Auntie’s house in Nigeria. It takes you global within Atlanta.” Lopez said.
Sign up at chowclubatlanta.com for exclusive invitations to monthly pop-up dinners, email firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.