Without the walls of a restaurant to surround and confine them, Eleven Madison Park kitchen alums Andrew Black and Eric Bolyard have, over the past year, created some of the most unique and original food events in the city under the banner of Tasting Society, their version of a supper club. The secret dinners attract chefs, celebrities, and those lucky enough to know of their existence, and events now sell out within days.
A more attractive version of a younger and tanner Rowan Atkinson, Bolyard met his partner in food during an early-morning changing session at the three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park. “We met at 5:30 a.m. in the locker room on my first day,” Black says. “As we moved around the various stations in the kitchen, we ended up cooking side by side on the fish line for seven months.” Under the tutelage of chef Daniel Humm, the boys learned the skills needed to excel in a kitchen where, along with fourteen-hour workdays, perfection is expected. And within a few weeks, it became clear they stood on the same ground when it came to the food they loved to cook and searched to discover: sophisticated fare with layered flavor, grounded in soul. Both put in their years in the lauded kitchen. Both are now months removed from Eleven Madison Park, and their honed skills are on full display to a lucky few.
A recent Tasting Society dinner reminded me of eating at a friend’s apartment — if only that friend were a Michelin-trained chef who lived in an immaculate Brooklyn loft with an open-air kitchen. Between courses, of which about seven were served, Bolyard and Black talked about the ideas and techniques that went into each dish. This was no recantation of what farm the beets came from or the name of the diver who retrieved my scallops — it was a refreshing discourse about how each dish came to be. It wasn’t pretentious or overwrought, it was causal and enriching.
They’re now planning their next dinner. Titled “Southeast Asian Street Food,” the event is inspired by their recent backpacking trip through that region. Photos from the trip show the chefs, tank tops and all, standing with locals in dirt-floored, thatched-roof huts, smiling with food surrounding the frame. “Some of the most delicious things I have ever eaten were prepared out of small, rudimentary kitchens,” says Black. The pair traversed the region for over two months, and they were able to see the differences in the “clean and bold flavors of Vietnam” and “the layered complexities of Thailand.”
The dinner, taking place this Friday, showcases a menu of purely authentic Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. “This isn’t our take or twist on the best food we ate, this is us trying to create the best food we ate,” says Black. From tom yum peanuts to marinated beef heart and Thai street chicken, the intimate dinner for twenty is nearly sold out. And thanks to the high demand, another Asian Tasting Society dinner is planned for the near future.
Menus change frequently, but the pair bring integrity to everything they attempt. Go now, before a restaurateur finds out about it and has them open up a place of their own.
Get more information and make reservations by visiting Tasting Society’s website.