Hey Everyone! You know how much I love chatting with chefs and food influencers about all things yummy. I had a chance to catch up with Connecticut native Tonia Renae who now is a new resident to Philly about her super cool dinner series called Supper Club. Im so excited to attend this year because she will be doing a special Mardi Gras theme which means the food is going to be the bomb dot com.
I personally think creative culinary events like this are super fun and different. It was so fun chatting with Chef Tonia, she has a cool and witty personality. Check out our Q & A about her culinary journey, inspirations, her favorite restaurants in Philly and more…
Kitchen Conversations with Chef Tonia Renae
TJWJ: How long have you been a chef? Chef Tonia: Well let’s see, I’ve been cooking since the age of 17. I didn’t I take on the more serious side of cooking until after completing an accelerated culinary course back in 2010 where I learned the history of food, technique, and an appreciation for ingredients. . So I’ll say about 7 years professionally…I spent years in various kitchens practicing and learning from my mistakes. I also got a whole lot of education watching chefs at different restaurants I worked for and then mimicking their technique and recipes at home. Practice certainly makes for perfection because later in life I would develop recipes of my own and even self-publish a cookbook.
TJWJ: You are from Connecticut how does the food scene differ from Philadelphia? Chef Tonia: I don’t recall food being a main objective back in Connecticut. This whole foodie thing is something I’ve never experienced. Maybe it’s the change in times but who knew there would be a world of people who make a living off of eating and writing about it. The city that I moved from, it was all about the pizza. Here in Philly it’s not just one thing. I mean yeah everybody loves a good Cheesesteak but people here don’t mind taking risks when it comes to their food and I appreciate that.
TJWJ: How has the city of Philadelphia inspired your creativity in the kitchen?
Chef Tonia: I love being a part of a culture that doesn’t mind taking risks with their food. And seeing all the diversity inspires me to mix flavor combinations in ways that I might not have before. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of Asian flavors and Island spices and magic just keeps happening in my kitchen. I am looking forward to sharing these creations with this new wave of Foodies that is emerging.
TJWJ: What is the Supper Club? Chef Tonia: The Supper Club came to mind as something I wanted to do after seeing Kardea Brown on The Kitchen. She would have these pop-up dinners with menus centered on her Gullah background. Anywho, I thought it over, and discussed it with my better half, and we both decided that this would be a great way to try and start to get my name/brand out there. Upon further google search, I found out that Supper Clubs were not something new and had been happening throughout the city for a few years.
TJWJ: What are two things you have learned about yourself since creating the Supper Club? Chef Tonia: For one I’ve learned just how creative I really can be. When I found out that I wasn’t the only Supper Club in town I had to find ways to make mine stand-out. I wanted it to be a total experience. I didn’t want simple place settings at a dining room table so I sought out a professional…my wife. She’s the best decorator that I know, honestly-the woman built me a kitchen but that’s another interview, so naturally I gave her a budget for décor and left her alone to create her magic. Transforming the space is an understatement, she did a complete overhaul. Next was entertainment. A live band at a pop-up may not be so much on the creative side but it is an addition that I felt we needed in order to produce the ultimate experience at a dining pop-up.
TJWJ: You have a themed dinner coming up? whats the inspiration behind this event? Chef Tonia: Each month that I do the supper club I am going to try to match the theme to what is going on within that month. I wanted this one to be in February, closer to the actual date of Fat Tuesday, but when I started planning it the dates for the venue just weren’t available so we had to do it in March.
TJWJ: When you are not cooking for others what are some of your favorite food guilty pleasures?
Chef Tonia: Insomnia’s chocolate chip cookies. I could sit on the couch and eat those things all night.
TJWJ: What restaurants do you like to visit in Philly? And whats your favorite item on the menu? Chef Tonia: I love, love, love South and Cuba Libre. Two restaurants where the service, food, cleanliness, and atmosphere is always on point!!! I don’t have a favorite item but I just had some crab bisque and deviled eggs at South last week that were amazing and at Cuba Libre I always get the empanadas.
TJWJ: What goals would you like to accomplish with Supper Club? Chef Tonia: I would like to see it grow in size. The more I see the Supper Club grow, the closer I will be to having the confidence to open a spot of my own.
TJWJ: Do you listen to music when you cook if so whats on your playlist? Chef Tonia: Actually I don’t. Is that weird? lol
If you had only one meal left to eat what would it be? Chef Tonia: Chicken Wings and Chocolate Chip Cookie. Trust me, it’s a meal.
TJWJ: What do you hope to bring to the tasty city of Philadelphia? Chef Tonia: An environment where people will eat, share, laugh, love…Bless.
TJWJ: What future projects can we expect to attend? Chef Tonia: May – Mother’s Day Brunch and Pop-Up shop benefiting Breast Cancer Awareness. This event is going to be a little different than the previous supper club events. Not only will you be able to taste some great new brunch recipes I have been working on but mom can also enjoy goods from a variety of tables that will be set up hosting local vendors including: Makeup demos Bags and jewelry Hand made soaps Photo booth A bakery catering co. All proceed will benefit Breast Cancer Awareness. Stayed tuned on IG for all of the details.
You can keep up with all of Chef Tonia culinary creations by following her on social media @bless.supperclub
Images by: Tonia Renae