Just about every story in any publication these days seems to begin with some connection to the ‘economic downturn.’ Despite an awareness of this, I can’t help but suggest that a small-scale, quasi-fine dining experience out of a young Vancouverite’s home is a fitting way of saying “fuck you” to the uncertainty of a job in the formal economy.Okay, so the creator of the vegan Secret Supper was self-employed since before all this economic hubbub, but it’s always motivating to see someone make their creative DIY ideas a reality.
The home of the Secret Supper stands on a tree-lined, East Vancouver street and looks like any other on the block, except that it has a few more guests than usual on Sunday evenings. Once in the door and up the stairs, prepare to be greeted by a vaguely curious grey cat and the friendly hostess of this underground dining event unlike any other in Vancouver.
“My house is quite, quite small, so you always get to meet the other people eating, it makes it more of a shared experience,” says the Secret Supper hostess (who would like to remain somewhat anonymous). “And there aren’t many vegan dining choices in Vancouver, especially for something a little less casual.”
Started in 2008, the Secret Supper offers a changing three-course menu for three Sundays out of every month. For $20, diners get an appetizer, main course and dessert, or can order each course individually. There are also some delicious big bottles of ‘farmhouse method’ beer from Wasted Talent brewery.
The creator of Secret Supper is a multi-talented lady in her mid-20s. She was inspired by a similar dinner experience in Halifax and decided to give it a go at her home off Fraser Street. Looking to change up her field of self-employment, and already working on a vegan cookbook, she figured it was worth a shot. She says that she’s only heard of one other underground supper club in Vancouver, though some others may be too covert to even know about.
A vegan since 16, she uses her own recipes, often making things she has never made before on the spot. She also gets the occasional tip from her brother who’s a chef, “though definitely not a vegan one.”
So if it’s a “secret” how do people know about it? The internet, of course! With a Facebook group and a website it seems like there isn’t much worry about official reprimand for operating outside of the heavily regulated food service industry.
The hostess says this is because, more so than the internet, it’s the acquaintance-based word-of-mouth that explains the popularity of Secret Supper.
“I don’t think I would want it to be total strangers. There is always a community of people connected somehow, be it music or veganism or arts, which I am all connected to.”
With a maximum of 30 people obtaining a reserved seat per Sunday dinner, she’s not going to be raking in millions, but that’s not the point.
“There is a lot of fine dining in this city, and there aren’t many, if any, that are strictly vegan,” she says. “When I was in New York in the Fall, I went to a couple fine dining places that were vegan and it was amazing. So I am trying to bring a little of that to Vancouver – though I wouldn’t call Secret Supper fine dining because I don’t think I am at that level yet!”
Although being an options-starved vegan undoubtedly makes the Secret Supper experience more appealing, as a non-vegan I would recommend it for anyone who’s open-minded and interested in trying something different to the conventional restaurant experience.
Fresh from Calgary’s SAIT with a journalism diploma, Rhianon Bader did not really know anything about the world and thought this might be problematic. After six months traveling around Latin America with her skateboard and camera, she took her BA Hons. in Political Science and International Relations from UBC. In these four years she invested $450 in an old Honda motorcycle, lived in France and Spain, and wrote for news and skateboarding publications. She currently lives in East Vancouver, and works as a freelance writer and copy editor.