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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stag Dining Group Speak: "What We've Done Has Taken Us by Surprise"

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2012 at 2:15 PM

Matthew Homyak, Ted Fleury, and Jordan Grosser at last month's Stag Dining Group event. - COURTESY OF JULIE MICHELLE
  • Courtesy of Julie Michelle
  • Matthew Homyak, Ted Fleury, and Jordan Grosser at last month's Stag Dining Group event.
As Stag Dining Group, Emory Al-Imam, Jordan Grosser, Matthew Homyak, Ted Fleury, and Anil Margsahayam have been putting on professionally clandestine dinners for 18 months now. Just before filing my review of their most recent event -- titled "Guns, Game, and Rose" -- I spoke to two of the stags, Matt and Jordan, last week. Here are some excerpts from our interview:

SFoodie: So how did the five of you come together to form Stag Dining Group?

HOMYAK: I go back with Jordan and Ted to high school in Southern California. That's where we first met. After college, we met back in San Francisco in 2004 and became roommates. Jordan and Ted were working at Campton Place and Winterland, trying to start their culinary careers, and I was working at Tiffany. Anil, Emory, and I met at the University of San Francisco, where I was going to school.

Over a year and a half ago, we decided to form a business, and we wanted it to be around food. I come from sustainable management, Anil is an actor, and Emory is an app programmer with a masters in computer science. Between the five of us, we have a dynamic background. Two major things we all love to do is get to the outdoors and feast.

How did the dinners start out?

GROSSER: Our first dinner served 40 people in two seatings over the course of two nights at a friend's house in Cole Valley. From there, we moved to a pirate radio station on Mission and Cesar Chavez and did a few events there, and we got things rolling, getting contacts and finding the right venues.

HOMYAK: Starting off, we were an underground supper club, but working out of a commercial kitchen -- we've been on the up and up in that regard. But we weren't formed as corporation with insurance, and we went through that change in the first two to three months. We formalized our relationship with a commissary kitchen and became tax-paying citizens.

We saw what was happening to our friends who were doing supper clubs, and didn't have any aspirations to keep it underground. We like the community aspect of the dinners, though, and that's something we've carried with us from those supper clubs. What we've done in the past year and a half has taken us by surprise, whether it's taking over a battleship and having Reggie Watts play or going to Sundance.

Now we're doing around one public event a month, but companies are also hiring us to create and curate experiences for them. That's been great for us. We've done product launches for Ram's Gate Winery and Canyon Organic Vodka, for instance.

Seems like you document all your events with photographs and video.

GROSSER: Starting the website, we wanted photographers and videographers there. It' s great content for our site, and it recaps the event for people who weren't there.

Jordan, what does cooking for the events allow you to do that you can't do in the restaurant?

GROSSER: It's like having a different restaurant every time -- pairing the food with the winery or the brewery we're partnering with might dictate what we're trying to create. It also opens us up to different themes. We've done spring-focused dinners, an anti-Bastille Day dinner, fun stuff like that. Gives us the opportunity to be playful.

The thing I enjoy about a supper club compared to a restaurant is that a restaurant's about having an individual experience, while at a supper club it's a communal experience. We have people sitting at long tables, bringing back the elements of a classic feast, where you're sitting down, breaking bread, and forging new friendships.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.
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Jonathan Kauffman


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