We first came across Asma Khan through her Twitter account, @AsmaKhanCooks. Hosting regular supper clubs (under the name of Darjeeling Express) and taking on various catering gigs, Asma is a force to be reckoned with!
Showing no signs of slowing down, her next venture is #MyLondonSupperclubs, a series of dinners from 29th July – 17th September. Designed to celebrate the city’s culinary diversity, we decided to learn more about the brains behind the operation.
What is a supper club and what diners can expect at one?
Supper clubs are meals usually served in the home of a cook. The cook is passionate and accomplished, and the meal is of very high quality. The guests do not know each other and are usually seated together on one table, with the food being served on sharing platters as if eating with the family – very different from dining in a restaurant! This communal style of dining has never been an issue, from my experience, having hosted supper clubs for 4 years; the ice melts immediately, and by the time starters are served guests are deep in conversation – topics of food and travel are popular.
What made you want to start Darjeeling Express as a supper club?
I accepted the offer to host my first supper club without knowing what it was! During the 2012 London Olympics, a friend brought a guest along for lunch with me. They offered me the opportunity to cook Indian food for a “supper club summit”, which was a series of dinners. I had to google what a supper club was. It’s kismet – I never planned it – it just happened!
How does #MyLondonSupperclubs differ from other supper clubs in the city?
I came up with the idea of hosting a series of supper clubs, to celebrate and showcase the diverse cuisines available in London, on the morning of the Brexit result. I wrote a Facebook post inviting other Londoners to join me in building bridges in this city, by breaking bread with others and celebrating what unites us, rather than what divides us.
How big of an impact do you think this diversity has on London’s food scene?
London’s food scene has a huge number of talented non – UK born chefs; immigrants have transformed the city’s food culture. When I came to the UK 25 years ago, you had to go to an Indian area to get basics like fresh ginger, coriander leaves and chillies. Today it’s is a very different story – a small Marks & Spencer food store on Earl’s Court road will have all the fresh coconut (Daab) you need! People buy groceries and food no longer thinking of it as “exotic” or “ethnic” – London has absorbed the food traditions and flavours of immigrants.
The day of the Brexit result was the first time, since I moved to this country, that I felt unwanted and foreign. Although the referendum was about the European Union, the campaign had very much appeared to become a vote on immigration. On 4th August we are hosting a Jewish & Muslim supper club – a unique opportunity for guests to try the traditional home cooking of two cultures together. In London, all our political and religious differences can evaporate as we sit together and enjoy a meal. We are all Londoners!
What is the one recipe, through your experience, that you can rely on as being the ultimate crowd pleaser?
I have to say Biryani – I make the Calcutta “Dum” Biryani version, with potatoes and dried prunes. My guests have always loved it!
And finally, what advice would you give to any budding food entrepreneurs interested in starting their own venture?
The most important thing a food entrepreneur needs to understand is that they cannot do it on their own – building a team is important! Running a food business is not glamorous – the hours are long and brutal, and the money, at least in the early days, is little! I gained a lot from talking to others in the industry; I am grateful for the likes of Chef Vivek Singh of Cinnamon Club, Pervin Todiwala of Cafe Spice Namaste, Tarunima Sinha of My Little Cake Tin, Zoe Perrett of Good Things Magazine and Shamil Thakrar of Dishoom, who all gave me invaluable advice. People in the food industry are generally helpful, and anyone starting out their business should try and reach out to others and ask for advice.
So, whether you’re a supper club newbie or connoisseur, #MyLondonSupperclubs is an unmissable showcase of culinary talent – visit Edible Experiences to browse the supper clubs and book your tickets before they sell out.
And, if this has inspired you to start your own supper club, let Kitchup get you started in the best way!