An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
May 21, 2014
08:27 AM
The Connecticut Table

TV Chef Brings Secretive 'Dinner Underground' Series to Connecticut

TV Chef Brings Secretive 'Dinner Underground' Series to Connecticut

Chef Plum Luv at work at the recent pop-up dinner at the Williams-Sonoma in the Danbury Fair Mall.

On a Sunday evening in early May, about 40 people waited outside Williams-Sonoma at the Danbury Fair Mall. The store was closed, but inside a group of chefs and wait staff were scurrying about in preparation for something.

"What's going on here tonight?" a young man asked a woman standing outside the store.

"Dinner Underground," the woman replied.

The man looked confused. "What's that?" he asked.

Dinner Underground is a pop-up dining series started by celebrity Chef Plum, a Culinary Institute of America graduate known to food lovers from his frequent appearances on the Food Network, ABC's “The Taste,” Ehow.com, Jamie Oliver’s Foodtube, and elsewhere. Pop-up dining, a relatively new craze sweeping the food industry, is a dining event in which a chef will set up shop in a temporary location. This could be at a chef’s kitchen, at a house, or pretty much anywhere food can be cooked and prepared. Plum (whose real name is Kristopher Plummer) was inspired to start the series after he appeared on the show "The Taste."

"I met an amazing Chef there named Andres Dangond, who does pop-ups for a living in L.A. I loved the idea and thought what a fun thing to do back home,” says Plum, who lives in Newtown and has cooked for Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Michael Jordan and Sheryl Crow.

The first installment of the series was held in February 2013 at Butcher’s Best Country Market in Newtown. The event sold out quickly. Since then, Plum has hosted several events at Butcher’s Best in Newtown and at Williams-Sonoma in Danbury, he also plans to expand the series to new venues in the future.

Those who filed into Williams-Sonoma in May were treated like members of a secret culinary club. Guests were seated at group tables around the store’s center display table/kitchen area, where Chef Plum and his team went to work creating a six-course meal of delicate portions.

(At right: Plum with his sous chef, Justin Kern, at Williams-Sonoma)

Each dish was gourmet, presented with colorful flare and filled with distinctive and creative flavors. Highlights included Asian Fried Chicken (flavored with coconut parsnip, mint, and local ramps), Ahi Tuna with Compressed Watermelon (this edible science experiment fused the tuna and watermelon together into what appeared to be one substance; shown at top), and Roasted Pork Belly Love (roasted park flavored by local maple syrup and mustard greens, served over horseradish grits, above). Dessert did not disappoint and featured a milkshake served in an edible glass made of sugar.

But the evening was about more than just food. During the event, Plum makes the kitchen his stage. Between each course he talks about how he came up with the dish and what inspired it. He also walked around interacting and talking with almost everyone in attendance. He told our table a funny (and thoroughly unprintable) dirty joke he’d just heard from a guest. This ability to connect with the consumers of his culinary creations is part of what Plum loves about pop-up dining.

"To me Dinner Underground is a mix of great food and a show. I get the opportunity to really push myself from a culinary standpoint as well as an entertainer,” Plum says. “I tend to talk to every guest, rant and rave about my love of local food and really help promote local businesses as well. It's a win for everyone.”

Because the event, by its nature, is all about spontaneity, the series is not regularly scheduled, and it’s advertised only in certain circles.

"Dinner Underground kind of just happens,” Plum says. “People come to these events and get the real underground feeling, the ‘you have to know someone to get in feeling.’ No, we do not have a man peering through a tiny hole in the door asking for the password or secret knock. Not a bad idea though.”

However, there is a way for new foodies to penetrate the culinary underworld, and it doesn’t involve hooded ceremonies or fraternity style hazing. When pressed, Plum admits that upcoming Dinner Underground events are generally posted on his website plumluvfoods.com, and announced through his Twitter account @chef_plum, as well as through his email list, which you can join by sending an email to chef@plumluvfoods.com. If you do happen to hear about an upcoming Underground Dining event make sure to make your reservation soon after, as each event tends to sell out quickly. 

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

 

TV Chef Brings Secretive 'Dinner Underground' Series to Connecticut

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