By AMILE WILSON • Photography by Rory Doyle
Everyone knows the Delta has plenty of stories to tell, some nearly everyone knows while others remain hidden. Before Stewart Robison transplanted to the Mississippi Delta, he heard many of those stories from his grandfather, a Delta native. He looked for a way to unify his love for food and the untold Delta stories and the Delta Supper Club was born.
A Cleveland insurance salesman by day, Robison and friends Chef David Crews and Kimme Hargrove founded the supper club as a means of introducing people to out of town chefs with creative menus and the untold Delta stories.
Robinson’s fascination with food began while owning and operative a boutique duck hunting experience in Glen Allen. The venue provided tourists a taste of the Delta and whetted Robison’s appetite for exotic recipes.
Delta Supper Club is a member based organization. Once people join, they can buy tickets for the dinners which are held roughly every six to eight weeks.
“We’re not exclusive,” Robison says. “Anyone can go to our website and join. It costs $100 and every member is able to buy up to two tickets to each of our events.”
As many as two hundred people buy tickets for each dinner. Ticket costs change with each event, but recent tickets have cost around $125 each.
As the time draws near for another Delta Supper Club, the venue and chef are announced, but no menu. Each dinner is set at a different historic location and each chef comes from outside the region.
“Chefs normally have to build menus based on what people buy, not what pushes their comfort zone,” Robison says. “These guys come here and get to be creative. They’re good enough chefs you can trust them.”
Chef David Crews, director of the Mississippi Delta Community College culinary program, coordinates with each chef to make sure that each chef has exactly what he or she needs to provide a striking meal to the guests.
“Sometimes we are in venues that don’t have a kitchen,” says Robison.
One dynamic that adds to the Delta Supper Club experience for both chef and participants are the family style servings.
“Every dinner is served family style, sometimes you’re with people you know, sometimes you don’t,” Robison says. “With some of these large entrées it takes two or three people to serve. People have to coordinate serving, they start talking, they start interacting, and suddenly you don’t see phones come out.”
The Delta Supper Club is more than just a friendly gathering, the organization raises money for a scholarship fund for culinary excellence at the community college.
Each chef has access to both national and local ingredients and is aided by a few locally owned products. Hugh Balthrop’s sweet magnolia gelato has been a part of every event, creating custom flavors for each chef. Recently, Balthrop created a salted caramel and pork fat gelato flavor specifically for a Delta Supper Club event.
The first event was held October 30th, 2015 at Dockery Plantation with Chef Edward Lee. Additional events have happened at the New Roxie Theatre with Chef Bahr of Baton Rouge, at Kimmel Aviation hanger, at the BB King Museum with Michelle Berstein of Miami, FL, at Dunleith featuring Chef Tomas Cari of NY, and a 2017 kickoff with Chef David Crews.
The dinner at Kimmel Aviation hanger featured a history lesson on the women in the civil air service during World War II.
“Many of the Delta airports were built as training grounds during the Second World War,” Robison explains. “Not that many people know about the history of those airports. Hearing the history of Dockery as the home of the blues was another great story.”
As he searches for the next venue, Robison lets gut instinct and local advice guide him.
“I’ll show up in an area and talk to locals,” he says. “Everyone has a story to tell and eventually you start to find the right one. That’s part of the fun – finding a story that not everyone has heard.”
The next event is just around the corner and the next venue is almost ready to be announced. To be the first to know and the first to buy tickets, log on to www.deltasupperclub.com and join.