Why did you choose to host the supper club in your home? What are the logistics like in the kitchen and do you have anyone to assist you?
I think hosting people at home is much more interactive for a cook than cheffing at a restaurant, which is why I chose to do them at home. Meeting guests and interacting with the people you're cooking for is for me one of the highlights of cheffing, so being able to welcome people to your house rather than being hidden away in a kitchen felt like the right way forward. I think for supper clubs, people are much more up for home style cooking in a more informal dinner party atmosphere, which would be something you'd potentially lose in a restaurant setting.
Logistically for a home kitchen, you just have to be very organised with prep, ensuring there's enough fridge space, and behaving as far as possible as if your kitchen is a restaurant kitchen — so checking the fridge temperature regularly, using thermometers to check the temperature of food before serving it and following all the standard catering food health and safety guidelines. I do food safety courses fairly regularly for work and am usually a bit of a health and safety nutter even when food is just styled for a photograph, so that end of things isn't difficult to apply at home.
I was very ably assisted both weeks by my good friend and supper club collaborator Danielle, who has already come up with the theme for the next supper club, and my husband Ken, both of whom were amazing help — table decorators, waiters and cheerleaders at various points! I wouldn't contemplate doing it without an assistant, as much for the moral as practical support.
What do you think will be the main challenges and what have you learnt so far?
The main challenges are making sure everything goes out on time, and to the standard that you would want — I've definitely learnt so far that my oven, despite its considerable size, is not happy or consistent cooking for 12-14 and it is on a final warning before getting replaced!
You left a career in law to compete on MasterChef and then went on to train as a pastry chef with Tom Kitchin - how have those experiences shaped your cooking?
MasterChef was an opportunity to be tremendously creative, coming up with imaginative dishes after learning techniques from books and BBC online videos. Whereas working at The Kitchin was a thorough and practical grounding in how a chef should work, think, prepare and conduct themselves during service — absolutely invaluable training. One allowed me to be creative with food, and the other gave me training in what it really means to be a chef and produce consistently good food not just as a one off, but all the time and in a professional way.
What are your plans moving forwards?
Danielle and I are planning roughly one supper club a month going forward; she is picking the charity next time as I chose Oxfam's Syrian Crisis Appeal for the last two. The next round of recipe testing is about to go underway in between styling and writing for work. It's nice to do something creative and interactive that raises money for a good cause (I'd rather this than a half marathon!).
What advice would you give to someone who was looking to set up their own supper club?
Pick the type of food that you really enjoy cooking, test your dishes over and over again and run it with a friend or partner whose advice you can trust. Also, handpick a few guests who you know will mix well with everyone else and help create a really good buzz in the dining room while you get on with the food.
Find out more about Rukmini’s supper clubs on her website.
Photography by Rukmini Iyer and Jaime Tung.