Get a Taste of Fresno’s Underground Suppers
Sep 30, 2019 11:00AM
By Melissa Mendonca
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos courtesy of Fresno’s Underground Suppers
“WE HAVE GOOD THINGS here and we deserve to have good things,” Amy Jaye, co-founder of Fresno’s Underground Suppers, says about the Central Valley. “One of the things that inspired me to want to do something like this is that I’ve had similar experiences in big cities and I wondered why we didn’t have them here.”
The concept of Fresno’s Underground Suppers is simple, yet the execution is always elaborate and transformative: pop-up and immersive dinners in sometimes wildly unusual locations, always themed and focused on culinary adventure with a touch of mystery.
“We have an immersion dinner series where we immerse ourselves in the culture and food of an area,” says Jaye. So far, guests have been to Vietnam, Appalachia, the Kashmir region of India and the Yucatan Peninsula, all without needing to buy a plane ticket. These dinners are held in the VIP area of Fresno’s The Painted Table, where Jeromie Hansen and Rodney C. Hansen can use all of the features of their professional kitchen to execute foods of a region right on site.
The collaboration between Jaye, a former wedding planner, and the Hansens at The Painted Table is what has grown Fresno’s Underground Suppers into the popular events that they are. “Chefs are creative creatures. They need to be challenged. Their chef skills need to be sharpened,” says Jeromie. The unique culinary explorations of the supper club allow just that.
The team does a deep dive to learn about the food and culture of the region, then transports guests to the area via exquisite presentation and a five- to seven-course offering. “We always do something with a little twist,” says Jaye. “Depending on what we’re doing, a course may be served from the kitchen on a carefully plated piece of pottery.”
Sometimes guests dress up for the dinners to add to the ambiance. “It’s amazing when they do,” she adds, “though we don’t require it by any stretch of the imagination.” She notes the joy of a speakeasy-themed event where many guests arrived in ‘20s-era costumes, and a Legend of Sleepy Hollow dinner where guests went out of their way to dress up in period pieces.
“It’s also a place where people can know that they can come to be comfortable,” she says. “These events are not like any experience you’re going to have at a restaurant. We encourage people to let down their guard a little bit. They’re very mysterious. We don’t announce menus.”
“It’s definitely a passion project for us, and it’s a passion project for our chefs,” adds Jeromie, noting that Rodney is the head chef and culinary designer. “We love, love, love our community and we want to give people something different to do on these nights. We sell out almost every single night.”
The challenge for both the Hansens and Jaye is coming up with new ideas and venues. When you’ve served dinner in bed, you’ve created a big act to follow. “We put beds in one venue,” says Jeromie. “Everyone booked a bed and we served dinner in bed. It was super classy, nothing raunchy. We’ve had so many interesting, unique dinner parties.”
While dinners are often intimate productions for 40-50 guests, they are no means exclusive. Those interested sign up on a free membership list via Facebook. When dinners are announced, an email invitation goes out to the list. Events occur every three to four weeks.
Supper club events are not only gaining rave reviews from locals, but have also caught the attention of national reviewers. The third-ever event was a Sicilian-themed dinner held in an underground cave at Forestiere Underground Gardens that earned the 2017 national Catie award for best signature caterer event at the 25th annual Catersource Convention. “It’s like our version of the Oscars,” says Jeromie.
Fresno’s Underground Suppers is celebrating three years in business, the first of which was a trial year for the partners to see how they would work together. “I had been a wedding planner who didn’t want to do weddings anymore,” Jaye says. “I just wanted to do some things that were smaller, more intimate where people could go and escape the day. I decided if I wanted to go to that type of event, I was going to have to create that type of event.”
The fortuitous collaboration with the Hansens brought that idea to fruition. “Jeromie and Rodney are absolutely instrumental in getting the underground suppers up and running the way they are,” she adds. “It was their inspiration of the food and how to tell that story of the food that brought us here three years later. We all decided that this was going to be a passion project for us.” •
Fresno’s Underground Suppers • www.fresnosundergroundsuppers.com
Find them on Facebook and Instagram