To Taryn Clayton, Founder + Head Chef of Soj Foods, food should be about community. That’s why she created Underground Supper Club, a dining experience that’s unlike anything you’ll find at a restaurant. Once a month on a Friday night, Taryn and her team transform their industrial kitchen in Carlstadt, New Jersey into a sit-down dinner event, featuring a vegan five-course meal, complimentary beverages, and the opportunity to dine for as long as you please. Each Supper Club event has its own theme, with a secret menu to match. Keep reading to learn about the road that led Taryn to Underground Supper Club, and what to expect from this unique event series in North Jersey.
The Founder + Chef
Taryn studied nutrition at Montclair State University, and initially intended to pursue a career in public health and food counseling. But when she didn’t get into the graduate program that she was hoping for, she found herself on a different path.
It was her mom who suggested culinary school, knowing that Taryn had always loved to cook. After taking a year off to travel the world and indulge in various foods and cultures, she decided to go for it.
As a vegetarian, Taryn found herself at National Gourmet Institute (NGI) — a plant-based culinary arts school in New York City. Following graduation, she taught cooking classes in and around the city, which is when she started to fall in love with the community aspect of food.
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At this time, she also started personal cheffing and opened a grab + go business, which she was building organically through the people she met and the connections she made at NGI. She was starting to think about moving to her own facility and forming her own LLC when the pandemic hit. Like so many, her business dwindled, but she didn’t stop pushing ahead, planning for the future.
She knew that one day she wanted to have her own space to host events and believed the ticket to get there was her personal cheffing and grab + go businesses. She invested in what is now Soj Foods, initially working out of a tea shop in Ridgewood, NJ before landing in her current kitchen location in Carlstadt.
Launching Underground Supper Club
By the winter of 2023, Taryn was finally starting to feel settled with the personal chef services and grab + go aspects of Soj Foods. But there was a spark missing — which was being able to cook a meal for people from her heart. While she was hesitant about using her industrial kitchen in Carlstadt as an event space, she also realized that she finally had creative freedom.
“I thought to myself, what am I waiting for? I love the cooking that I do for personal cheffing and grab + go, but hosting dinners is what feeds my soul like no other,” Taryn shared with The Montclair Girl. “I was doing deliveries in New York and I had a moment where I realized that I needed to just go ahead and do it. I had to start somewhere, and had nothing to lose. I made up my mind right then and there.”
She immediately brainstormed the concept with her best friend and social media manager, Celina Semente, branding it Underground Supper Club for the old-school vibe and the influence of the production facility setting. Like so many other times during Taryn’s journey, it was her friends and loved ones in her life who rallied around her to make the first event happen.
Celina quickly got to promoting it on Instagram, Taryn’s boyfriend and his dad built wooden tables in their garage, another friend created the playlist, and of course, Taryn curated the menu. They were scrappy, and successfully kicked off the first event of the series in March 2023.
What To Expect
As Taryn explained to MG, “The whole vibe of Supper Club is to encourage people to come have a meal, communicate with each other, and slow things down. It’s a moment to sit and enjoy dinner and not be rushed somewhere. There aren’t many moments that we get to sit and just be present and eat a meal or have an experience. Food should be a communal thing.”
For each event, the team miraculously converts a cold production facility into a warm, welcoming environment. Guests are greeted with cocktails before gathering at a community table to feast on Taryn’s creations.
In between courses, diners have meaningful conversations with each other or with Taryn herself, who pops out of the kitchen before each course to introduce the dish and its ingredients. Underground Supper Club is like a dinner party with friends — except your meal is cooked by a trained chef who puts a ton of heart, soul, and creativity into the menu.
The food itself is for anyone who’s interested in trying something new. It’s a vegan and largely gluten-free menu, and any additional restrictions can be catered to.
When creating the menu, Taryn starts with one idea or ingredient and builds from there, with each month centered on a theme. For example, the first event in March was largely centered on the changing season, featuring winter vegetables combined with fresh herbs reminiscent of spring. The secret menu lends itself to Taryn’s creativity, as she’s easily able to adjust based on what’s available at the market or the inspiration she gets in the kitchen.
The Vision + Upcoming Events
Taryn would eventually like to host Supper Club every Friday, and her vision is to start fusing it with more thematic experiences. For example, a jazz night where music is playing from a record player with a menu catered to sound, or a movie night with a film playing on a big screen and foods that are emotive to the film. She’d also like to collaborate with other small businesses such as local artists, creatives, wellness practitioners, etc. to give guests something nontraditional.
For now, Taryn and her team are focused on making sure they’re curating the best possible experience. “The atmosphere is very important to Supper Club. We want to curate something that people can walk into and feel a certain way. Every detail that we put into the room is for a reason. We’re trying to put meaning and significance into all of the pieces that go into this night.”
Currently, the tables are set for 24, but there’s an opportunity to expand that number without losing the personal, intimate setting of Supper Club. The events will always be on a smaller scale.
The next event is taking place on Friday, May 26th, and in honor of Mother’s Day, the theme is an ode to women.
Summer events are also scheduled for June 16th and July 14th. Tickets are $135 and all events start at 7:30PM and are located at 435 Meadow Lane in Carlstadt, NJ.