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Chef Tory O’Haire’s Full Moon Supper Club

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Photo by Allison Arnold

By Allison Arnold – Web Editor

At the sound of “underground dinner party,” I was instantly intrigued. Like a restaurant in a basement?

Tory O’Haire, also known as The Starving Artist and owner of Propaganda Doughnuts, assured me that no, The Full Moon Supper Club is not a restaurant in a basement, but it is a dinner party, and never in the same location. This October will mark the fourth year of the dinner club.

After multiple dinners and gatherings with friends, O’Haire asked, “why don’t we do this all the time?” And thus, the Full Moon Supper Club was born.

Each month, the chef extraordinaire, picks a destination in Grand Rapids and cooks a meal for his guests that complements the chosen region’s cuisine. The location of the dinner party will never be the same. It can be anywhere from a restaurant to someone’s home. O’Haire invites anyone to join, it just isn’t advertised.

“It’s 100 percent word of mouth,” O’Haire said.

All you have to do is sign up, bring your own place setting, and sit amongst a table of friendly faces, while eating some amazing home-cooked food that will transport you around the world.

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Photo by Allison Arnold

The Full Moon Supper Club Facebook page is an easy way to stay updated on each month’s event and also reserve your spot at the table. There is a cost, which varies month to month, and includes all the food and beverages prepared by O’Haire. He notes that the fee will never exceed $50, as he wants it to be accessible to anyone interested, whether or not it means being that one special occasion to indulge in.

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Photo by Allison Arnold

So, I took the plunge and signed up for the next dinner, ‘Cote D’Azur,’ which was held on Sunday, May 18. The theme was southern French cuisine, with a focus on the coastal towns of Marseilles and Monaco. Walking up to a beautiful home in Heritage Hill, I was immediately nervous. Did I bring my place setting? Please tell me I didn’t forget my silverware. I hope I’m not the youngest one here. Upon entering, I was immediately met by enthusiastic guests, and delicious smells of seafood and fresh vegetables coming from the kitchen. I took my spot at a long table in the backyard with just over twenty seats.

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Photo by Allison Arnold

There was a surplus of appetizers and wine, including radishes and salted butter. As dinner time approached, O’Haire brought out a big pot of Bouillabaisse, a stew of tomatoes and fish. Plates of roasted veggies, olive tapenade, salads, and of course, French bread, were passed family-style down the large table. A layered dessert of cream and fruit tasted just as great as it looked, a warm welcome to the Spring and Summer months. There was also a plate of French bread, olive oil, dark chocolate, and sea salt; all to be layered. Simple, but delicious.

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Photo by Allison Arnold

What I thought was going to be somewhat of an awkward experience not knowing anyone at the dinner, turned out to be anything but. For most people, it was their first time at a Full Moon Supper Club dinner. While the ages and professions ranged among guests, there was never a dull moment in conversation. It is amazing how easy it can be to come together with complete strangers, eat a good meal together, and leave with new friends.

“A dinner table was at the town center. Dinner was where you got to know each other,” O’Haire saidreferring to how people enjoyed meals centuries ago. “To meet everybody—the unifying factor was the full moon.”

“It’s great for meeting new people, but not in a networking sense. It’s a different social experience.”

He doesn’t just want his guests to meet new friends, but he wants to give people a truly original culinary experience. “Art is most important when it is impressionist, when it means something to me. It’s not just what I paint, but how what I paint makes you feel.”

O’Haire believes this methodology is important in making Grand Rapids a great food city. Grand Rapids has somewhat limited itself, he says, but is slowly approaching a hospitality-based restaurant style versus service-based. O’Haire wants his guests to have a hyper-personal experience, where they are taken care of and get a full dining experience, not just food.

“If you can get that experience, it is worth it.”

O’Haire still has more ideas awaiting the food scene in Grand Rapids. His latest venture, the Bandit Queen, is modeled after an old school East Asian noodle shop, with a French twist, a sort of “trade route cuisine,” according to O’Haire. It’s not just going to be high-quality food, but will be open late-night, perfect for after shows and events. At earliest, the Bandit Queen will be opening in June.

And O’Haire is still dreaming up his idea for a breakfast place modeled after a 19th century English country inn. A place where you can stay and relax in the morning, and drink craft cocktails at night.

The Full Moon Supper Club went beyond my expectations and took me away to the sea towns of Monaco and Marseilles. If it taught me anything (which it surely did), it is to embrace new friends, new food, and new experiences, because as we get further and further from an old lifestyle based around the town center, there is always going to be a full moon and food to be shared.