a tavola! Supper Club // Zurich
Anna Pearson, the host of Zurich’s supper club a tavola!, isn’t just what many would call a foodie. According to a friend of hers she is a “culinary totalitarian”. Described in her own words, cooking means the world to her: It’s sensual and creative, sharing a meal with others is social, and it simply has a lot to do with love. Honestly, what more could a supper club guest hope for? Anna’s love obviously doesn’t only start when preparing the food but already with choosing the ingredients – or even one step before with growing vegetables in her own garden. She is an active member of Switzerland’s Slow Food movement that aims to raise consumers’ awareness for fresh, high quality and as far as possible sustainably produced food, and consequently promotes regional cooking traditions that use locally and seasonally available products.
A tavola! is the incarnation of Anna’s understanding of hospitality. By profession, she is actually a graphic designer, but found out that she doesn’t feel comfortable sitting behind a computer all day. The idea for a tavola! was born about 3 years ago when she decided to do an internship in a restaurant kitchen. Ever since she has been a child, she loved to join her mother in the kitchen and prepare dishes with her. And though she originally never intended to earn her living on cooking, that is exactly what she is happily doing today. Not with a tavola!, that is a hobby and not meant to pay her rent. She shares a flat with her sister Catherine, a photography student and helping hand on supper club evenings. Both sisters are combining their talents and together work on the a tavola! cookbook, to be published in autumn 2014.
But one after the other: It was during that first internship – some others were to follow – that Anna started dreaming about a place that would allow her to experiment with all her culinary ideas, and also to re-think hospitality in a way that is different to what you find in restaurants: One communal table, informal and intimate, a place for people to meet, consistent in terms of the design, the music, the atmosphere…and of course the food: She likes dishes to be simple, authentic and focused on the product itself, not pimped up with decoration or other extra frills. Molecular cuisine isn’t for her at all, Italy by contrast a key source of inspiration. The supper club’s name a tavola!, Italian for “dinner is served”, makes reference to her culinary roots. However, through traveling she has opened up to other styles as well, in particular Oriental and New American Cuisine.
But let’s not reveal too much in advance, the whole idea of supper clubs is finally built on curiosity and surprise. For a tavola! it means that the menu published on the website reads more like a shopping list, for example: “Duck liver, orange, winter salads, egg, quail, radicchio, polenta, lemons, mascarpone”. You wouldn’t go watching a movie if you knew the entire story beforehand, would you? A bit of mystery doesn’t seem to do any harm, the monthly a tavola! events are always booked out. The guests are usually half strangers, half friends, and Anna feels more at ease with some friends around. But whether one or the other, she doesn’t take reservations for more than two together to make sure there is a good mix of people. The cost for a 5 course dinner is SFR 100 or €80 which includes the wine and also the club membership fee: Because a tavola! is by definition a private club for members only and strictly not a public restaurant. That would have to comply with a vast number of legal obligations, mission impossible for a private culinary retreat like Anna’s.
Right now, in January 2013, a tavola! is celebrating its 3rd anniversary, so congratulations! In case you feel like some visual appetizers after reading this article, it’s highly recommended you visit the nicely designed a tavola! website where all 23 dinners since the very beginning are well documented and new dates will be announced. Alternatively, you can like a tavola! on Facebook.
And if you are still hungry for more from a tavola!, here is a recipe for a perfect risotto provided by Anna.