Chef Kevin Harris and Emily Nordee
Laura Kowalski

The founders of the KCHEN Project Speakeasy Supper Club said it felt fated when their initials combined to phonetically spell the word “kitchen.” Chef Kevin Clark Harris and Emily Nordee’s upcoming “speakeasy style supper club” will feed Santa Barbarans a taste of transition with ever-changing venues and evolving flavors. That is, after they receive enough dough to support their start-up.

Their Kickstarter goal is set to $10,500 dollars or more — which will fund the club’s ingredient costs, venue rentals, equipment, and staffing. And thanks to a page sprawling with delectable pictures of incentives like their BLT (i.e. Blueberry, Lemon, and Thyme) jam, they’ve fulfilled over a fifth of their goal with 14 days to go. “Once we get the funding in place, we’re going to hit the ground running,” Nordee said. Their website will subsequently go live, where a phone line and e-mail address can be reached to make reservations.

Starting at the end of July, these weekly suppers — priced between $45 and $75 per person — will feature four to five courses. Seating will be capped at a max of 35 people for each event. The idea of this first come, first serve exclusivity is meant to bolster the coziness of the environment. “It’s bringing the people together,” said Harris. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The club is not a speakeasy in the Prohibition-defying sense of the word — although, attendees can expect locally-sourced alcohol to be flowing. The theme is more of a nod to the club’s locale-hopping, which their Kickstarter page advertises, “you can be dining in an old barn al fresco and the next week at an over-the-top Estate!” Nordee said the club’s mustachioed logo featuring two Santa Barbara black mussels, designed by Ryan Tully, represents two muscles coming together.

Their ultimate goal is to own a brick and mortar restaurant by 2014. The project is their means of establishing their presence in Santa Barbara while learning about the appetites of their clientele. “These supper clubs are going to lend [themselves] to how we’re going to refine our menu,” Nordee said. Speakeasy Supper Club won’t abide by an established menu — they’ll change it up in accordance with changing supper themes.

They are wary of the widespread myth that 90-percent of restaurants fail within the first year, even though numerous sources report that the rate is closer to 60-percent. Harris said his time working at Wine Cask, which closed then shortly reopened in 2009, was short-lived because “the owner didn’t know anything about the restaurant business.” Nordee added that opening a restaurant is “probably one of the hardest things you could do with your life. I think both of us have so much experience in the restaurant world, [so] if anyone can pull it off, we definitely can.”

Harris and Nordee met in March at Joe’s Café while cheering on a basketball match with friends. They quickly learned that they both work in the food industry; Nordee had just moved to Santa Barbara after spending eight-and-a-half years living in New York City. The two immediately figured that their skill sets could complement each other in the kitchen.

The appreciation for locally grown food was instilled in both Harris and Nordee during their youth. Harris’s Connecticut family of farmers and gardeners has owned The Chas C. Hart Seed Co. since 1892. “I was just raised in the right way when it comes to that,” he said. “I’m pretty grateful for it, because not everyone has that opportunity.” On the other side of the country, Nordee’s grandfather bought her a plot of land in a Long Beach community garden when she was four-years-old, where they would plant every season.

Given their mission to cook local and eat local, they agree the standout ingredients of Santa Barbara hail from the ocean. “When we were making our Kickstarter video, we were down at the harbor, and they were bringing in hundreds of pounds of sea urchin,” Harris said. “We were eating them right off the dock right there.”

Nordee also grows ingredients such as rosemary, lavender, and avocados in her backyard. “That’s how you begin to appreciate your food, by getting in there and seeing what goes into it,” said Harris. Only time will tell if that ideology applies to their locally grown business.

To donate or learn more about KCHEN Project, visit them on Kickstarter, or follow them on Twitter at @KCHENProject.


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