Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dinner Lab heading to CLT

Dinner Lab is headed to Charlotte, says its organizers.
The idea? Let chefs experiment. Let diners react to the food immediately, with ratings. Repeat.
The methodology? Prospective diners buy memberships first, at $150 a pop, to get to see the schedule for what will at first, here, be pop-up dinners. ("We don't want to be velvet rope-y," says CEO Brian Bordainick.)
When a dinner is planned, members find out and can reserve a seat, for somewhere around $60.
You might get five courses, you might get 10, and the push is for a chef to tell a story with the food -- and share new ideas on what Bordainick calls "a creative platform."
As Dinner Lab's press release puts it, "We've seen a disconnect between what chefs prepare on a regular basis and what they actually care about. We exist to see if those ideas they have for an original concept or grandma's recipe actually have legs."

The goal is to use chefs from the area (typically not exec chefs but the next few down the line) about half the time (one chef at a time) and from elsewhere -- the travel team, if you will -- the other half.

The organization is about 2 years old, says Bordainick, and in 10 cities currently, with differing frequencies. Members are members; if you're in town somewhere else (the 10 are New Orleans, Nashville, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Austin, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and D.C.), you can go to a dinner there. Calendars go out weekly, with upcoming menus. Charlotte is one of nine new cities; its Lab partners are Houston, San Antonio, Denver, St. Louis, Philadelphia, San Diego, Milwaukee and Baltimore.

Expect a late August launch here, though the Lab folks are scouting, they tell me, even as you read. Want more? Take a look here.

Interesting detail: About 60 percent of the Lab chefs are women, according to Bordainick, as are about 60 percent of the members.