A members-only dinner club that lets diners get up close and personal with chefs at top restaurants is expanding to New Orleans this fall, set to take over hotspots like Mister Mao, Addis Nola, and Tava.
Tasting Collective is a private dining club — currently operating in a dozen U.S. cities like Houston, New York, and D.C. — that hosts dinner party-like events at restaurants on nights they’re closed or business is typically slow. The five-course tasting dinners are supposed to “create a stage” for chefs to experiment with new dishes and “put on a show” for attendees, says founder Nat Gelb, all while giving diners the opportunity to give the chefs direct feedback, privately and constructively. “It’s essentially the anti-Yelp,” says Gelb.
The first New Orleans dinner is set for Wednesday, September 21 at Mister Mao, with chef and co-owner Sophina Uong, followed by dinners slated throughout October at the following restaurants (once it gets rolling, Tasting Collective event dates are provided to members a week or two in advance):
- Tava, Manish Patel’s chic Indian street food restaurant in the Warehouse District
- Thaihey NOLA, the French Quarter Thai restaurant from chef Yimchalam Greene and husband Nathan Greene
- Addis NOLA with Princo Lobo, the acclaimed Ethiopian restaurant’s co-owner (the dinner will take place at a forthcoming new location)
- Blue Giant, the LGD American-Chinese restaurant from Cochon alums Bill Jones and Richard Horner
The idea is for diners to get a behind-the-scenes look at creating a dish, with chefs coming out to introduce each course to communal tables, tell stories about their process, and participate in a Q&A during dessert. Members fill out feedback cards throughout the meal where they rate each course and provide comments, with cards given directly to the chefs after the events. Gelb says all the profit from the events goes to the restaurants, which keeps the event tickets reasonably low ($60 for a five-course meal) — Tasting Collective’s business model is based on making money off of the annual membership fee, says Gelb, who launched the club in New York City in 2016.
Tasting Collective memberships cost $165 per year, though the first 500 New Orleans members will be able to join at $99, says Gelb. Only members can purchase tickets to the dinners, which will take place every two or three weeks, making for about 20 to 30 dinners throughout the year (members can bring guests for an extra $25).
Restaurant-obsessed residents can currently request a New Orleans membership invitation on the Tasting Collective website in advance of the September 21 dinner at Mister Mao.