Shock chef Anthony Bourdain would be proud of me. When it comes to meat, I usually only eat “normal” stuff — beef, pork and chicken (and the occasional holiday turkey, of course). But Sunday night, not only did I dine on duck breast and braised goat, I actually tasted (I can’t believe I’m typing these words!) beef heart tartare.
It was, by design, an odd occasion.
It was the second official meeting of a group that calls itself Trust Fall Knox. (The group is named after a popular trust-building game often conducted as a group exercise in which a person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on the other members of the group to catch him or her.)
According to the group’s “manifesto,” it is Knoxville’s first underground supper club, the brainchild of a handful of diehard foodies who love to eat, drink and meet new people. The idea is to gather a small group of diners — 20 or fewer — from across a variety of social groups to enjoy a gourmet meal prepared by a local chef and served in a clandestine location. “People have been connecting over meals for centuries,” the manifesto notes. “But in the current age, we have too often sacrificed personal connection for convenience and comfort. Trust Fall is an attempt to slow us down, to remind us of what it is like to linger over a wonderful meal that demands your full attention and to share the experience with someone new.”
Part of the Trust Fall experience is placing your trust in the featured chef. So no special dietary requests or preferences are allowed.
It’s kind of a fun cloak-and-dagger experience to get to the dinner. The 20 tickets are sold for $100 each on a first-come, first-served basis. Potential participants receive an email telling them exactly what time the tickets will go on sale. They are snapped up quickly, within an hour. Then you wait until the appointed day, and you are told at 1:15 where your 6:30 p.m. dinner will be. Our email had a link to a Google Map location: 115 East Jackson Ave., in the Old City in downtown Knoxville.
Alan and I decided to participate because we love the chef who was selected to prepare this month’s meal: Matt Gallaher, the chef owner of one of our favorite eateries, Knox Mason on the 100 block of Gay Street. Plus, we thought it would be a romp, which it was.
We showed up at the secret location, which turned out to be Willow Creek Gallery, a business that occupies 20,000 square feet in a historic warehouse and specializes in hand-selected antiques from France and England. It is a very cool space.
When we arrived, we were told we could take pictures and write about the food, the guests and the chefs, but we were not allowed to photograph or reveal the identities of the founders of the group, who would be our wait staff. (I was surprised by some of them, to tell you the truth.)
We fastened ours seat belts, so to speak, and prepared for one of the most original and creative meals we’ve ever had. Nine courses with wine pairings and a signature cocktail served in a quirky, beautiful environment by folks who clearly love what they are doing.
Thanks so much to the team that came up with and executed this unique dining experience. Details on how you can participate are contained later in this blog post.
“Why would a chef do such a thing,” I asked Matt. He said it’s a treat to have a chance to be truly creative. Clearly, some of the items on this menu would never fly in a working restaurant. He said he appreciated the opportunity to keep honing his skills. We were the lucky beneficiaries.
Wine pairing with this course was a 2012 The Curator chenin blanc blend by A.A. Badenhorst, from Swartland, South Africa.
Wine was a 2011 Chassagne-Montrachet by Olivier LeFlaive from Cote de Beaune, France.
We had the same Chassagne-Montrachet with this course.
With this we had Superior Fino sherry by Sandeman from Jerez, Spain.
Wine with the duck was a 2009 E. Guigal Gigondas from Rhone, France.
We had the same red wine with this course.
With the desserts, we were served a delicately sweet sparkling wine: Ruffino Rosatello prima cuvee from Tuscany, Italy.
Organizers plan to have these events every four to six weeks, they said. The previous one was held in the basement of O.P. Jenkins furniture store downtown and featured Chef Trevor Stockton of RT Lodge. We’re told the next one will not be downtown.
There are two ways to get on the list to be notified about upcoming Trust Fall events. Follow Trust Fall on Instagram (#trustfallknox) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on the list.
We hope to see you soon at one of these unique culinary adventures. Cheers!