Brian Bordainick Explains Social Dining Experiments

By Carissa Chesanek  |  November 8, 2013
Credit: Dinner Lab

Underground dining clubs are popping up all over the city with The Hidden Kitchen, Copperbox and the latest to hit the culinary scene: Dinner Lab. We sat down with the CEO of Dinner Lab Brian Bordainick to get the inside scoop on the latest dining craze. 

Zagat: What is a "social dining experiment?" 

Brian Bordainick: When we say social dining experiment, we are talking about bringing people together that are uniting around the food. The social experiment part is that our diners don’t know a lot of the people that are at the dinners. The common thread that unites them is the fact that they all really like the particular menu for the evening. We’ve been fortunate to attract a group of like-minded folks that span race, age and social thresholds

Zagat: Tell us what the concept is behind Dinner Lab.

BB: We want to bring together interesting people to help chefs that are typically idling in their careers, develop and get better. There is a serious disconnect between what chefs want to be cooking and what they are preparing on a regular basis. We provide that platform for the chef to show what they are passionate about.

Zagat: What can people expect to eat and who will be cooking it? Well-known chefs?

BB: Our menus are strictly derived from what the chef is interested in and/or passionate about. We've had everything from Vietnamese to New Southern and all of the chefs are typically from more established restaurants in the city, but that isn’t always the case. They aren't the head chefs there, but the number 2, 3 and 4 who are looking for an opportunity to get their name out there and do something that they don’t have the opportunity to do on a regular basis

Zagat: What does one have to do to be accepted into the club?

BB: Just sign up and pay the fee. We really pride ourselves on taking early adopters, regardless of background. 

Zagat: Do the diners have to be foodies? High-rollers?

BB: Not at all. Our membership usually attracts the type of person that is a tastemaker amongst a friend group. This isn't necessarily true of age and race. The best way to describe them is they are the person that goes to a music festival year one and stops going year three because everyone else found out about it.

Zagat: What will ruin a person's chances to get into Dinner Lab?

BB: Being slow with the computer mouse? In all seriousness, we don't pick and choose our members, they choose us. The main thing is that when we release memberships the person interested in joining needs to join then.  

Zagat: Why do you think people want to be part of these types of clubs? What makes them so special in your eyes?

BB: The feeling of being a part of something that only exists for an evening helps. But also, I think people are tired of doing the same thing. Dinner Lab offers an opportunity to try foods they may have never been tried before, as well as checking out a new chef before he becomes a big deal. Everyone likes being on the ground floor of a great discovery, right? Restaurants are amazing, and we probably eat at them more than 99% of the human population, but they are based on predictability and expectations. We like to tamper with all of that and see what happens.

Zagat: Any other advice to our readers on how to get into an elite underground dining club?

BB: I wouldn’t recommend folks join one that is elite. They probably wouldn’t let us in. It’s a great way to try something new and interesting and be a part of something that not everyone knows about. It’s like discovering a new awesome band, two times a week.