A shared meal is always something special, whether with one person across the table, a gathering of old friends or a conclave of new faces meeting each other for the first time. The Hutch Supper Club celebrates the modern pop-up concept—here today, somewhere else tomorrow—and the almost century-old, private supper club setting that emerged in the 1920s to offer guests a more intimate dining experience.
Chris Jakubiec, chef-owner of the Hutch Supper Club, brings his storied credentials to every meal, pairing inventive tastes and inspired variations on favorite dishes with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. “I was at a point where I wanted to do things on my own and not be tied to a restaurant per se. The pop-up concept gives me the opportunity to express my creativity. I got into this business because I love to cook,” explains Jakubiec. “All chefs are control freaks! With the Supper Club, I don’t have to have brick and mortar. I can do this on my own time and my own terms. It allows me to satisfy my passion for hospitality.”
Most cooking and consuming areas are distinctly different regions within a restaurant. Diners hardly ever have the chance to interact with a chef. The chef rarely witnesses the pleasure with which the guests accept their plates and savor their first bites. In this expanded role, Jakubiec is on hand to welcome everyone, as well as explain the individual courses. “More often than not, I end up sitting down with the people at the end of the meal,” smiles the former executive chef at Denver’s the ART a hotel and the Michelin-starred Plume at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., engaging in quite a different wrap-up to the evening from his former life as a hotel chef.
The pop-up might take place in a home where the cooking is done with residential appliances, or outdoors or in the professional kitchen of a beyond-hours breakfast or lunch spot that closes long before Jakubiec’s guests are ready to dine. Whatever the location, Jakubiec displays his fine dining familiarity and expertise when designing each Hutch Supper Club menu and preparing every repast for groups that typically number a dozen to 25 guests. “It isn’t just about the food. I have to own the entire experience,” he emphasizes. “It’s very personal, making each guest feel special and every event unique.” With the assistance of his wife, Liz Wegrzyn, a chosen theme carries through the get-together from the décor to the menu to the take-home gift. “One of the best parts of this is being able to work together with Liz on these events. Her creativity has been awesome,” he says, confirming that multiple details like menu artwork originate with Wegrzyn.
The multi-course (generally four to seven) menus feature ingenious, always inventive specialties Chef Jakubiec creates with fresh, seasonal elements. The prix fixe offering may or may not include beverages or chef-suggested wine pairings. More often than not, BYOB is the order of the evening, but there is always a welcome-to-the-party alcohol/non-alcohol libation served as guests gather. Tantalizing extras, like an amuse bouche, excite anticipation of the deliciousness to come. (Food intolerances are respected by offering an alternative course or incorporating more appropriate ingredients.)
Jakubiec learned to cook from his mom, whose background was in food and beverage. His great-grandfather owned a speakeasy back in the day. His grandfather, who went by the name Hutch, owned a few bars. Passed down through the generations, a genuine love of preparing and serving food still runs strong and is, according to Jakubiec, a “heart and soul” endeavor.
An after-school devotee of the TV show “Great Chefs of the World,” Jakubiec grew up “idolizing” the culinary masters. He went all out alongside British chef Damon Gordon for 10 years and says French-born Claude Troisgros, who now lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, remains one of his favorite chefs to have worked with. Time spent with Alain Ducasse was memorable.
“I love pretty much every type of food out there: sushi, Thai, Italian,” he notes. “My heart will probably be always rooted in classic French cuisine because I believe in the techniques and flavors.” That’s not to imply a formality to what or the way in which it is served at Jakubiec’s pop-up. Short-season ramps, morels and nutty-tasting fiddlehead ferns, for example, are around for brief periods of time each year and incorporating these types of lesser known but delectable items into his dishes brings something more intriguing to the table. He is having fun with Hutch Supper Club, which translates well to the food and those fortunate enough to enjoy it.
Hutch Supper Club
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Curried Sweet Potato Bisque
Makes 1 gallon
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
¼ cup garlic cloves
3 tbs vegetable or grapeseed oil
3-4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
3-4 tbs curry powder
4 quarts cold water or vegetable stock
Sea salt and pepper
In a large stockpot over medium heat, sweat the onion and garlic in canola oil until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary to avoid caramelizing. Add the sweet potato and season with salt and pepper. Sweat lightly, about 5-7 minutes. Add the curry powder, stir and toast until curry is fragrant. Deglaze with water or stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender and start falling apart. Blend thoroughly on high in blender until smooth, adding liquid from pot to adjust consistency. Adjust seasoning as necessary to taste and cool in an ice bath until soup reaches 40 F. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.
To serve: Heat soup. Top with 1 tbs of seasoned sour cream, 1tbs of chopped bacon and 1tsp chopped chives.
Roasted Salmon with Summer Vegetable Hash, Grain Mustard Hollandaise and Herbs
1 zucchini, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 cup green beans, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 summer squash, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 eggplant, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 medium shallots, sliced, and 1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 tbs chopped parsley, plus 6 sprigs
6 sprigs tarragon
4 sprigs cilantro
4 sprigs dill
¼ bunch chives
3 tbs plus 2 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 sprigs thyme
2 egg yolks
3 tbs tepid water
1 lb butter (or 1/2 c ghee, warmed)
2 tbs grain mustard, room temperature
1-1/2 lb salmon fillet, preferably center cut, scaled with skin
2-3 tbs vegetable oil
Sea salt and pepper
To prepare the vegetables for the hash, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Blanch first the zucchini for about 1 minute, remove with a skimmer and transfer to ice bath. When the water returns to a boil, repeat with green beans. Once cooled, remove from ice bath, drain on a paper towel and set aside. Place the eggplant in a colander or strainer and season with salt to draw out oxalic acid. Let sit 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry. Set aside.
To clarify the butter, place butter in a small saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer, skimming the “foam” that rises to the top. You will notice that as you remove the foam, the butter begins to clarify. Once the butter is clear, slowly pour into a bowl, trying to avoid pouring out the water and any solids that have fallen to the bottom of the pan. Keep slightly warm.
To prepare the vinegar reduction for the hollandaise, combine white wine vinegar, shallots, 2 tarragon sprigs and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Reduce by about half to two thirds. Set aside to cool. Once somewhat cooled, remove the tarragon sprigs.
To prepare the herbs, pick the leaves from the 6 sprigs parsley, 4 sprigs tarragon, cilantro and dill. Chop half the chives and set aside. Cut the remining chives into 2-inch lengths. Wash well and set aside covered with a damp paper towel.
Vegetable hash: Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 3 tbs olive oil. Add the eggplant, garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper and sauté about 5 minutes or until the eggplant begins to brown and soften. Add the yellow squash and sauté until almost tender. Add the zucchini and the green beans and sauté. Add the tomatoes, season all with salt and pepper, and cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. Remove from heat and add the chopped parsley and chives. Check and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Hollandaise: Prepare a double boiler- large saucepan over medium-low heat with about 2 inches of simmering water and a large bowl set over top. Add the egg yolks, water and the vinegar and shallot reduction to the bowl. Whisk constantly with a balloon whisk in a figure-8 motion until thick and ribbon-like (sabayon), about 8-12 minutes. Starting with small amounts of clarified butter or ghee at a time, incorporate into sabayon, adding more only once it is fully emulsified. Once about half of the butter is incorporated, begin adding larger amounts of butter. If the sauce starts to get too thick like mayonnaise, add another teaspoon of warm water to thin slightly. Mix in grain mustard, check and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Salmon: Cut the salmon fillet into 6 equal portions. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel. Season salmon portions generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and once the oil is “shimmering” (not smoking) begin gently adding the salmon portions, skin-side down, laying them away from you. Do not crowd the pan; sear in 2 batches if necessary. Adjust heat to medium so as not to burn skin. Cook until skin is slightly golden brown and crispy. Flip over and cook the other side about 30 seconds. Transfer to a sheet tray with a rack, skin-side up.
To serve, place salmon in the oven for about 4-8 minutes or until desired temperature. Reheat the hash if necessary. Toss the picked herbs in a bowl with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the hash onto a plate. Top with the salmon and spoon some hollandaise on the plate around the hash. Top the salmon with the dressed herbs.
Marge D. Hansen is a Broomfield-based writer/editor who agrees with Chef Jakubiec that just about every type of food is to be tasted and the experience appreciated.
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