How to Win Friends and Influence People... with Food
Ways of a) not spending loads of money on eating out and b) bribing people into being your friends include cooking – yes, cooking! – for others in your very own living quarters. Undergrads looking for affordable bonhomie: why not start a supper club?
Dale Carnegie’s 1936 self-help bible How to Win Friends and Influence People overlooked a very important ice-breaker: food. Ways of a) not spending loads of money on eating out and b) bribing people into being your friends include cooking – yes, cooking! – for others in your very own living quarters. Undergrads looking for affordable bonhomie: why not start a supper club?
Sure, you can be the guy with the toastie-maker and the backup instant noodles. That’ll get you pretty far. But what if you’re slightly more ambitious? Maybe you’re already a bona fide foodie. Jeez, perhaps you even applied for Junior MasterChef when you were younger. Me? Before I went to Uni I had the accumulated experience of microwaving several Chicago Town pizzas in a caravan in Wales. Yet this year, here I am, graduated and running my own supper club in Manchester.
If, unlike me, you’ve already honed some culinary skills, you can get a head start. Hosting your own supper club is a great way to put said skills into practice (and you’re not likely to encounter much competition from your fellow undergrads), and incentivise yourself to move past the microwaveables. Logistically, it’s not too difficult either. Just don’t overstretch yourself in the beginning: start out small, maybe with a few friends, to practise. Granted, if you’re limited to a communal kitchen in halls, it’s going to be a tight fit anyway, so small will be a necessity.
If all this sounds too much like organising something akin to a middle-aged dinner party, then don’t be so hasty: it’s nothing as sedate as all that. Think of it as an alternative to a night out. At 2am in the smoking area, you’ll talk shit to anyone; so why not invite some random people around, get them fed and get them drunk, and do the same but without having to scream yourself hoarse? I’ve met some interesting types this way: food bloggers, robot builders, lawyers, and ex-high-end chefs. Oh, and the odd sociopathic loner. Kidding.
Ideas-wise, you can be as high-flying as your cooking proficiency warrants. If you’re lucky enough to have taken a gap year in Asia or South America, then draw on those experiences. A theme definitely helps. Your budget doesn't have to be as ambitious to match, though: a combination of using independent grocers and plundering the Reduced sections of supermarkets at opportune times can yield a veritable smorgasbord of cheap ingredients.
Once you’ve hosted a few for friends, you can start upping the ante and open your doors to the general public. (This might of course work better once you move into a house.) As far as getting the word out and selling tickets goes (if you’ve got that far), Eventbrite and Facebook are your friends (the former will charge a small processing fee for ticket sales). Selling tickets gives you the capital to go out and get ingredients, so use them if you’re planning something extravagant. In terms of legalities, you don’t need to register as a food business unless you’re planning a supper club every week for more than five consecutive weeks.
Supper clubs are on the rise in the Northwest, but there’s plenty of room for newbies – so come and teach us not-so-old dogs some new tricks.