Warning: Supper clubs may be habit-forming.
Just ask self-proclaimed “supper club junkie” Holly Schmidt, who has started eight different clubs in the last 12 years. Sure, some people resist, but the allure almost always is too strong.
“Sometimes one member of a couple is leery about being in the supper club – usually the husband,” Holly says. “But after a dinner or two, they’re hooked.”
Holly and half a dozen others interviewed say more and more Durhamites are creating and joining supper clubs, friendly gatherings that can range from super casual to formal to exotic. It’s a trend that’s perpetuating itself, as many, like Holly, can’t help but start their own spin-offs.
The reason is fairly simple: In hectic lives filled with business, family and civic commitments, it’s just plain too hard to carve out leisure time with friends without institutionalizing it somehow.
That’s not to say these clubs are stuffy.
While the food served is usually more refined than burgers off the grill, the mood is jovial and relaxed.
“The part that makes a supper club different from a dinner party is that you see the same people often enough that you become much more than a club,” Holly says. “You become good friends.”
We at Durham Magazine wanted to see for ourselves, so Pokey Schiff and her husband, Bill, who’s director of Duke PDC Affiliations & Management Services, graciously invited us to a meeting of their club at their Hope Valley home.
On this sultry summer evening, guest Margaret Jones passes a tray laden with cheeses, black mission figs and raspberries to her husband, Jeff, partner and president of McKinney. The 10 guests and their hosts casually discuss their kids’ swim meets and upcoming vacations over cocktails.
Jeff says this isn’t something the men endure just to make their wives happy. “The guys in our supper club have become as close as the group of women – in the way guys are friends,” he says. “That is what makes supper club great: it’s a core group who likes each other, whether we are sharing a meal or out on the golf course.”
Not all supper clubs last forever. Holly likes to get them started for one year by inviting members and having everyone host one monthly dinner.
“After a year you can reassess and see if you want to continue,” she says. “Not all clubs go on, but once someone has been in a supper club, they are likely to be in another.”
Case in point: Lynn Toms' first supper club was one where Holly was also a member. They’ve both since left that one and joined another club together. “We all have good intentions about having people over for dinner, but somehow life gets past us,” Lynn says. “Supper club gives us a commitment. And what is better than a commitment to your friends?” DM