What happens when you combine “Chopped,” “Iron Chef,” and plenty of social media? Just ask the chef behind Chef Louie Night. The interactive dinners started almost a decade ago with a few friends in DiBiccari’s Brookline apartment and grew into a popular supper club, with guests voting on ingredients and a theme beforehand. The 37-year-old chef at Storyville and Minibar relocated his event to venues around the city, running dinners every few months with sous chefs from O Ya, Island Creek Oyster Bar, Coppa, and others.
Chef Louie Night takes place on July 15, Boston Center for Adult Education, 122 Arlington St., Boston. Tickets cost $75-$125. For more information, go to www.cheflouienight.com.
Q. How did Chef Louie Night get off the ground?
A. It started with one e-mail. It went to 50 people we knew, and it said, “Louie is going to cook this night, vote on these ingredients.” Fifteen people showed up, then 30 people showed up. We did that for four months in my apartment until one day I looked around and 110 people had showed up. I looked around and people were wearing shirts and ties; there was a full bar downstairs. I was like, we’re going to get arrested. Sure enough, a SWAT team turned up that night.
Q. What’s it like not being able to plan the menu until the day of the event?
A. When you don’t know at all anything that’s going to be in the mystery basket you just kind of let your instincts take over — I work better that way. Anytime I try to over-plan something or I over-think something I struggle with it. Now we have strategy sessions that happen at like 8 in the morning. We start kind of drawing the blueprint of what’s going to happen that day. The end result is never what we conceptualize in the beginning. Things sort of change as we go. From time to time we’ll go visit our chef friends in the city and say, for an hour we need your dehydrator. And a lot of people like to help us out and it’s a lot of fun.
Q. Can you give me an example of a past theme and what you did with it?
A. [One group] voted for the theme American contemporary. But then they also voted for “something molecular” as one of the ingredients. We had to show contemporary American food done with modern twists on it. We used beautiful Virginia ham from Formaggio, and it was sliced very, very thin, and we did a presse, and what that means is we took layers of ham, a little layer of sliced apple, and we brushed it with Vermont maple, and we layered them. And we pressed them so they became like one solid unit. And we used air pressure to do that. We took a very humble ingredient, something that’s been around for a century, a Virginia ham, and we showed a modern interpretation of how to serve it by using Cryovac. Nothing crazy, there wasn’t a lot of molecular gastronomy involved in that, it’s just a modern technique.
Q. Tell me about some of the not-so-stellar themes?
A. Some of the themes were like, Def Leppard. What do you do for that? Another thing they voted on in the past was “Things From aisle 12.” You just go to aisle 12 and you just pray to God it’s not the magazine aisle.
Q. You film during the day of the event and live stream it online. Why?
A. We think that if you go to the website, you vote for a theme and ingredients, and you know that you can tune in that day and see what’s going on in the kitchen before going to the event, that’s something that would be very distracting while you’re trying to work that day. That’s just it. We think it’s just distracting enough to get people interested in what’s going on.