Good Folk Supper Club Hosts Exclusive Dinners For a Cause

Drawing inspiration from southern supper clubs, Beth Herbruck organizes intimate dinners with well-known chefs in secret locations, and a portion of the ticket sales goes to a local nonprofit.

2018 Good Food Supper Club at Outpost in Asbury Park. Photo Credit: Russ Roe

Based mostly out of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Beth Herbruck’s Good Folk Supper Club energetically defies the old-school grandeur and benign hedonism of passive, eat-and-leave supper clubs. At every Good Folk dinner (20 and counting), your menu comes with actionable momentum: 15 to 20 percent of the $125 to $150 ticket price goes to the night’s chosen New Jersey nonprofit, with a rep on hand to enlist passion for the cause. “It was important to not just host another fancy dinner party,” Herbruck, a professional event producer, explains. “I thought, build a community around the table, open their eyes to the community at large.”

An Atlanta native, former Brooklyn resident and fairly recent Atlantic Highlands transplant, Herbruck drew inspiration from southern-tinged classic clubs like the Mosquito Supper Club in New Orleans and Blind Pig in Asheville. “I tried to glean what I thought would be successful here in our area,” she says, “that intimate, personal connection.” Even still, she describes her first dinner in May 2015 as “a leap of faith. I started a mailing list with 44 friends, people I knew were hungry and interested in some kind of new dining experience,” she says. Out of 44 invites, 14 people came. Dinner was cooked by none other than Jon Bon Jovi’s former personal chef Zeet Peabody, and proceeds went to Monmouth County’s own Lunch Break foundation. A tidy, bright success. Three and a half years later, Herbruck’s mailing list clocks in at “just shy of 1,000.”

2013 Good Food Supper Club at the Herbary at Bear Creek Farm in Howell. Photo Credit: Veronica Lola

Tickets, FYI, sell out quickly—“within three to seven minutes”— because the dinners are unique, depending entirely on a kind of synergy between space, chef, and charity. “Each supper club is really a separate story,” as Herbruck puts it. The space alone is so important, she’ll spend “months, even years stalking the right one.” And “guests don’t find out the actual physical location [of the supper] until 24 hours before. It’s a big reveal.” Some former spaces include the Thomas Paine House in Atlantic Highlands, the Water Witch Farm, and Bell Works. (“That’s a perfect example of an event space I’d been following for years—walking through with a hard hat on and my fingers crossed.”)

That synergy—space, food, charity—is just as important for the chefs, who tend to experiment more than usual when they cook at Good Folk suppers. “Most of our chefs are excited to get out of their kitchen—get out from the behind the line and push themselves,” says Herbruck, who takes pains to align the right chef with the right venue for maximum freedom of expression. “We want them to be able to say what they might not be able to say in their current restaurant.” Past chefs have included Bruce Lefebvre of the Frog and the Peach, Robin Hollis and Douglas Piccinnini of Poor Farm Food, and Joe and Jocelyn Weyrauch of Nettuno Truck, who served one of Herbruck’s favorite dishes to date—“a squid ink pasta dish handmade locally by Pasta Volo that included Jersey tomatoes and sweet baby Dream Greens grown by one of our donors, Aero Farms, at their indoor vertical gardens in Newark.”

Clearly, Herbruck is eager to showcase local producers—others include 40 North Oyster Farms, Opici Wines, Fine Health Kombucha, and the Vintage Cake right in Atlantic Highlands. But she doesn’t force anything on chefs (not all of whom are Jersey locals). She wants the whole thing to be a conversation, collaborative. “I ask the chef ‘Who’s a purveyor or supplier you want to support or champion? Who should people know about, something you’re really excited about?’”

2015 Good Luck Supper Club at Jüs Organic Cafe in Atlantic Highlands. Photo Credit: Russ Roe

As worthy as supper causes can get—past charities include the Jersey chapter of national addiction non-profit Shatterproof, Clean Ocean Action, and the National Young Farmers Coalition—a night at Good Folk hardly plays out like church services. “First thing, we greet every guest with a cocktail,” says Herbruck, who volunteers her grandmother’s (or her husband’s great grandmother’s) cut-glass punch bowls for a custom cocktail for each supper. “Then there’s a really brief welcome” by Beth, then information about the night’s non-profit. “I reach out to non-profit to come and greet our guests, speak about the mission, current programs. Somebody from the Board of Directors, a Director or Founding Member will come.” From there, “the chef walks you through the menu and we let the night take off.”

And take off they do. “There have been countless connections,” says Herbruck. “I’ve walked into a local coffee shop and seen former Good Folk guests sitting together and they say ‘We met at your last supper club!’” Chefs benefit, too. “I’ve heard from a number of chefs and the staff they bring, sous chefs and line cooks, it rejuvenates and excites the crew, gives them the opportunity to bond and stretch outside the kitchen.”

Considering the success, Good Folk seems ready to stretch itself, far beyond Monmouth and Ocean Counties. But Herbruck is also a recent breast cancer survivor, and she wants to keep things manageable. “I decided if I’m spending time away from the people I love the most, what is it I want to help spread the word about?” Four suppers a year is her current goal. Not that she’s taking it too slowly. “I have the next three in mind right now.”

The next Good Folk Supper Club is “set in stone” for March 9, featuring chef Emily Peterson, with proceeds going to Covenant House “and their recent opening of a home for youth in Asbury Park.” Sign up for Good Folk email invites to get ticket purchasing info.

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