Cook Here and Now

Austin’s newest supper club never meets at a hip art gallery. No bucolic dinners are served on the premises of the very farm that supplied the local produce. No innovative young chef has been spotted in the kitchen.

 “And no,” says the new club’s founder, Shannon Kimball, “No money is involved.” Cook Here and Now Austin is indeed something different—a group of foodies who meet every three months in a home kitchen to prepare and eat a collaboratively cooked seasonal meal.

The original Cook Here and Now started two years ago when Marco Flavio, a San Francisco–based food fanatic, began gathering farmers market fans for communal fine dining. Flavio announces his monthly food themes and issues invitations via his blog; dinners for 60 routinely fill to capacity in just a few hours and Travel + Leisure recently named Flavio’s Cook Here and Now one of its “10 Best Secret Dining Clubs in the World.”

Shannon Kimball decided to inaugurate the 11th.

“I pestered Marco like crazy,” she says. “Everyone wanted to know how to start a chapter, but Austin and Melbourne ended up being the first.”

Shannon began organizing a March dinner in January, when planning for fresh produce can be iffy. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and bok choy might be burgeoning—or not. But she knew she could count on lettuce and greens, not to mention local, grassfed pork—the official meat of the inaugural Austin dinner. Texas beer, wine and olive oil, of course, are always in season.

Almost immediately, Shannon’s blogged invitation RSVPs included Marco Flavio fans, friends and complete strangers—a small group of men and women, both single and married, ranging in age from 30 to 60.

“It was pretty cool getting to know these people,” Shannon recalls. “A guy from New Zealand—a big foodie—made a pork satay with peanut sauce. Someone else made ham hocks and cabbage. There was a double chocolate cake with fresh berries and cream.”

Unlike the San Francisco group, which cooks and feasts in a commercial kitchen, Austin’s chapter rotates between members’ homes, relying on strict timing to keep cooks from clashing in the kitchen. The schedule is no small challenge, but it fits Shannon’s food-centric life.

“I worked in sales at Dell for five years, then another five in advertising, and I was too busy to have a passion for food. Then I had an awakening. So I quit my job and signed up for culinary school. I’ve loved learning about the artistic side of food—being able to imagine a plate as if it were a picture.”

Consider the bright green palette she cooked for that March dinner: snow peas sautéed with garlic, olive oil, mint, salt and pepper.

Like everything else that night, they looked and tasted like spring.