In my relentless pursuit of creative, eclectic places to dine in New York City -- and even better, cool people to dine with -- I serendipitously came upon Worth Kitchen not too long ago. A distinctive cultural concept, Worth Kitchen invites small intimate groups of strangers on Thursday evenings to dine, chat, and enjoy the experience of unique community in that equalizing way that only food can create.
But this is not your typical theme dinner operation, which I quickly found out while doing some research on couple and Worth Kitchen owners, Tamy and Felipe. Last week, I had the chance to attend one of their occasional but often sold-out Friday pop-up dinners, during which they cook up a larger special social-eating event. The menu, as it is on Thursdays, is created based on their guests' interests, which Tamy and Felipe ask about before the event.
Forty people, mostly strangers, filled the loft space in SoHo (the location was revealed to us just the day before). Funny enough, we unknowingly ended up seated next to a good friend's fiancée -- our interests must have matched, given the friend -- and we proceeded down a path of duck, wine, truffle toasts (and much more) with six other fun, cool people.
Amidst all the busy-ness of the night's planning, Tamy and Felipe graciously agreed to go behind the scenes with me and paint the picture of Worth Kitchen's design, inspired by the marriage of their passions, as well as a bit about Worth Kitchen's past, present and future.
Laura Cococcia: What was your personal inspiration to create Worth Kitchen?
Worth Kitchen (Felipe and Tamy): This question should be answered in three ways. Why? Well because we started this project as a couple, inspired as a couple and fulfilled on a weekly basis as a couple. However, each of us on a personal level has our own inspirations to achieve something. So I will begin with our inspiration as a couple.
There is something very basic yet beautiful about working in the kitchen, getting your hands dirty, creating something for others to enjoy, and seeing the results right away. As a culmination of the current phase of our lives, we wanted to begin building and creating something together. From here Worth Kitchen was born. We had no idea where it would go and we are still discovering on a daily basis where it will continue to lead.
On a more personal level, my inspiration (Felipe) was always in the kitchen. Cooking has always been a passion and hobby, which never turned into a full-fledged career. I have a raw talent for cooking with experience that I have gained through 10+ years of cooking for myself, my friends, and catering (I began catering high end dinners for top level executives in Mexico City), yet I have neither "professional" training nor degree.
Worth Kitchen and Thursday's at Worth Street became the best way to put that talent to good use, and practice as much as possible the culinary arts. Plus, seeing the enthusiasm and amazing ideas that Tamy was producing helped push this project and me into a much stronger place.
For me (Tamy), I wanted to find a way to document our first year of marriage. I also wanted to find a way for us to escape the "newlywed" syndrome of only hanging out with other newlyweds rather than going out there and exploring all the different personalities and amazing characters this city has to offer. Thursdays would keep us social, creating new experiences on a weekly basis and putting us to work in the most imaginative way possible. When it comes down to it, my inspiration comes from the first bite I had from a dish Felipe made for me on our first Valentine's dinner. Right then and there, his talent inspired me.
Laura Cococcia: In your mind, what makes Worth Kitchen different from other supper clubs or restaurants?
Worth Kitchen: As far as food goes, we bring the gourmet in small size bites and make the complex and sophisticated feel approachable, authentic, and even familiar, something closer to home. Christy, owner of FranklyWines in Tribeca and our wine consultant, gives our guests funky and interesting wine recommendations, without giving the menu away (we like keeping this as a surprise until the night of the dinner). What ends up happening is our guests actually help build the dinner by contributing excellent wine selections that greatly complement the food.
As far as building an experience goes, we treat each Thursday night like a tiny experiment, each one with its unique combination of ingredients and guests. A big focus for us when building each Thursday is in making sure our guests subtly connect to one another. This gets very tricky because if it's too obvious, it becomes a theme dinner, which we think is boring! The idea is for our guests to be pleasantly surprised to connect to people who in the surface might have nothing to do with them, and get to experience the familiar in a foreign space.
Laura Cococcia: What are the next steps for Worth Kitchen? What should we be watching out for?
Worth Kitchen: We are slightly obsessed with finding new and fun ways to make our Thursdays at Worth Street dinner experiences better. We never compare, but we do learn a lot from past dinners and how we can improve and capitalize on certain elements that made the night memorable.
When guests leave, no matter how late it is, we have one last glass of wine and conduct a mini post mortem, discuss the food, wine and the overall experience, and begin building the experience for the next round.
Like any good business, we'll continue to perfect our main product but are also cooking up some ideas on how to extend on the Thursdays at Worth Street experience. Expect Worth Kitchen to continue popping up in unexpected places and seeing Worth Kitchen in many new and different shapes, sizes and spaces.