A members-only dining club with chapters across the country will launch in Portland this month. Tasting Collective partners with local restaurants to offer five-course dinners, showcasing off-menu dishes and getting direct feedback from diners.
The club spotlights a different restaurant each month, and will make its Portland debut with a couple of the city’s biggest culinary names: Kachka’s Bonnie Morales will host a dinner on November 30, followed by Cameron Dunlap of Morchella in January. As Portland’s membership base grows, Tasting Collective will increase the frequency of its events.
Membership to the dining club costs $165; the annual fee grants members access to exclusive dinners, which are priced at $65 — ticket revenue goes directly to the restaurants. Members can bring guests to events; guest tickets are priced at $85. The dinners are held on slow nights or nights the restaurant would ordinarily be closed, to not directly compete with daily service.
Gelb started Tasting Collective as a passion project. He and his friends would gather in private dining spaces to check out specific New York restaurants and chefs, before he opened up Tasting Collective to the public in 2016. Tasting Collective now operates in over a dozen U.S. cities, including Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
“Food has always been what facilitated connection for me with my family,” Gelb says. “[In the New York City] restaurant experience, while I loved the food, I was craving more connection. I wanted to connect to the chefs — learn their stories, learn the backstory of the restaurant, learn about the food they’re making.”
When it comes to reaching out to potential partners, Gelb says Tasting Collective typically looks for restaurants that have garnered acclaim, innovative and forward-thinking restaurants where chefs are driven by experimentation, and new restaurants that have been opened by long-respected chefs. The idea to include trial-run dishes in the tasting menus came from Tasting Collective’s early restaurant partners, who jumped on the idea of doing something outside their typical day-to-day.
“The chefs really saw it as an opportunity,” Gelb says. “We essentially create a stage for them to put on a show — they were psyched about the ability to do something different and get out of the daily grind where they’re cooking the same eight dishes over and over again.”
Those interested can request membership on the club’s website.