The Dining Society has been around for about a year, throwing the occasional small dinner party or impromptu barbecue. Last night the group's founder and manager Kevin Van, a sous chef at Providence, formally debuted his culinary project and placed it smack dab in the middle of LA's pop-up restaurant scene.
For the event, Van cobbled together a group of talented sous chefs from some of L.A.'s best restaurants and paired them up with mixologists Tricia Alley of Eva, Steve Calabro of Red O, and Daniel Nelson of... well, practically everywhere good cocktails are created. (Nelson made his name at Providence and Caña Rum Bar, and is a sought-after cocktail consultant.) In addition to the cocktail pairings, there was wine for each of the four courses, making for a boozy evening under the Hancock Park stars.
In addition to Van's dish of roasted mussels, potatoes and prosciutto, Ari Kolender of Red Medicine presented striped sea bass with tomatoes; Linda Lau of Eva cooked duck with herbs, huckleberries and parsnip purée; and David Rodriguez of XIV brought out a Bavarian yogurt with guava, lychee gelee and Japanese melon, and a hazelnut financier with salted caramel sauce. None of these cooks are famous names yet, but they are old hands compared to the teenagers who managed the hors d'ouevres: Macklin Casnoff, who interns at Providence, and Jon Sewitz, who just returned from a summer working in the depths of New York's Cafe Boulud.
Van's goal with the Dining Society -- which he plans on making a monthly event -- is to provide a forum for local sous chefs and not-quite-discovered culinary stars. Van charged $50 for the evening (and will for future events), an amount that wouldn't even cover the cocktails at a bar; he says he aims to keep the price as low as possible, in an effort to make fine dining accessible. The dinner will take place at a different location each time, largely with a seasonal, farmers market menu. If the talent level stays as high as it was last night, reservations are going to become quite the hot ticket. The events are open to the public, but checking the website early and often is a good idea.