Dinner Lab Prepares to Make Its Milwaukee Debut

Jul. 22, 2014
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Founded only a couple of years ago by Brian Bordainick, the pop-up dinners of Dinner Lab have gained massive popularity in NOLA and the cities it has already expanded to, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. “Dinner Lab was just an idea to be a platform for local chefs to experiment with new ideas in food,” says Bordainick. “We noticed that people were really receptive to the idea and wondered if it could potentially work in another city.”

So, why Milwaukee, when there's other cities that have a larger population or perhaps spend more money on eating out? “We really look for cities that have the same sort of scrappy nature that NOLA does,” says Bordainick. “Milwaukee has a similar vibe in the sense that it is attracting culinary talents from all over the world, and we think we can really showcase the talent in the city.” Scrappy, awesomely talented chefs? Sounds about right to me.

Chefs who plan and prepare the dinners will be 50 percent from the MKE market and 50 percent from Dinner Lab's network of chefs. For instance, Milwaukee's first dinner in August will be run by Chef Daniel Espinoza, who is employed full time as Dinner Lab's chef de cuisine. He previously worked as chef de partie at Mexique in Chicago when it received its first Michelin star in 2013. Each dinner has a theme, and not surprisingly, Espinoza's is modern Mexican. Dinner Lab will also employ permanent staff here in MKE to run the events and provide administrative support.

So how do you get to a dinner? You've got to buy a year-long membership first. Memberships for MKE are $125 and allow you to buy tickets to any dinner in any of the Dinner Lab cities, as often as you'd like. The membership fee goes mostly to administrative costs including renting kitchens, hiring staff, etc. There's a separate ticket price for dinners, which range from $50-$85 per person, but are usually on the low end of that range. Besides at least four courses, that includes tip, and most importantly around here, lots of alcohol.

The chef, date and menu for each dinner is announced ahead of time, but the location is kept a secret until a day or two before the event, keeping that air of mystery and excitement that so many people love about pop-up events. Previously, events have been held on parking garage rooftops, in abandoned warehouses and empty high-rise offices, so I expect some interesting nontraditional environments. I've already got my membership and tickets to the first event, so watch for a review of the first dinner coming in late August.

Bordainick says that he never expected to expand so much and so quickly when he started Dinner Lab, but people have embraced the concept so readily. “Expansion was definitely not in the cards at the start, but we're certainly happy to be here.” And we're certainly happy to have you, too.

For more information, visit Dinner Lab's website.


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