By Amanda Wells | Photos by Rory Doyle
Here in the South, one of our strong suits happens to be knowing how to gather ‘round a table. Whether in happy times, sad times or ordinary times, Southerners know the way to the heart is hands down through the belly. And, for those of us lucky enough to call this part of the country home, the food is about as good as it gets.
Mississippi native Stewart Robinson knew full well that good food, good stories and good people come out of the Mississippi Delta, as he grew up hearing stories about the mystic place from his grandfather, who called Holly Bluff home. When Stewart helped form Esperanza Outdoors at Linden Plantation on Lake Washington, deep in the heart of the Delta, he found a sense of place. “It’s just a really great piece of America,” says Cameron, who fell deeper in love with the Delta. There, he and partner Cameron Dinkins share woods, water, wildlife and cuisine with clients at their boutique hunting operation.
“Over the years, I have really fallen in love with cooking game,” says Stewart. “I can’t stand when someone says they don’t like venison or something like that. It just means they haven’t had it cooked well.” As he grew more passionate about cooking and the food that grew out of the Delta, his wheels started turning.
“I knew there had to be a way to showcase this area while helping out the community,” says Stewart, who soon dreamed up the Delta Supper Club with his friends Chef David Crews and Kimme Hargrove. “There are a lot of people in the state that come from less fortunate backgrounds that are really passionate about food.” Stewart sought to create a scholarship for those people to get through culinary school and to bridge the gap of being able to work their way up in the restaurant industry. The vehicle for that proved to be the Delta Supper Club.
“It started out as just a little fundraiser, where we would get my chef friend from New York to come down and cook and we would share some history about the food of the Delta,” explains Stewart. “It was so much fun that we wanted to do it more often, so we chased it further and that’s where the Delta Supper Club began.”
The Delta Supper Club is a members-only social culinary circle that provides you with culinary experiences unlike any other. With a goal of preserving and celebrating the rich culture only found in the Mississippi Delta, it offers a chance for members to dine on food prepared by acclaimed chefs; drink paired libations from brew masters, distillers and sommeliers; and to visit historically significant sites settled within Delta land.
“Delta Supper Club is truly something unique and innovative,” says Kimme. “We’re basically creating a ‘satellite’ restaurant in historical locations all over the Mississippi Delta. We’re bringing in chefs you typically wouldn’t see unless you went to their restaurants in another state. It’s a wonderful concept and all for a great cause.”
But beyond the surface of having a good time, the Delta Supper Club team is most passionate about their cause. While enjoying the most authentic dining experiences, members rest easy knowing their resources are funding the Delta Supper Club Scholarship Fund. A portion of the proceeds directly benefit Mississippi Culinary Arts students and provide funding to the Delta Seed Bank, which fills private gardens of Delta residents with heirloom, organic seeds in exchange for the opportunity to buy a portion of their yield. The goals it to revitalize “forgotten” seeds using the richest soil in the country and bringing high quality food to the table.
“After our first event, we looked around the room and I realized there wasn’t a single person on their cell phone,” says Stewart, referring to the revelers enjoying a family-style meal. “People were engaging and interacting and I knew then that we did exactly what we set out to do.”
That inaugural event was held at Dockery Farms and featured Chef Edward Lee, owner of 610 Magnolia in Kentucky, along with Jefferson’s Bourbon and Mississippi brewed beers like Southern Prohibition and Crooked Letter Brewing. “We had live blues music, a ‘red carpet’ that was an oriental rug and a photo op with a photographer,” says Kimme. “We greeted our guests with Mississippi brewed beers, Jefferson’s Bourbon Manhattans and passed plate appetizers including Asian Pork Belly Wraps, Delta Blues Rice Balls with Catfish Gravy and Caprese Skewers with ‘Living Basil’ Pesto. The atmosphere was casual, friendly and laid back yet super elegant.”
The next Delta Supper Club event will take place in February and more details can be found at deltasupperclub.com.
“So many of our members are already coming back for more,” says Kimme.