There are times, says Stefen Janke, when a board of directors, a small meeting group or a group of friends doesn’t want to dine in a restaurant. That’s where Kitchen Kriminal, a division of Davis-based Gourmet Solutionz, a well-known regional caterer, comes in.
In the beginning, Janke says, he and Julie Van Dam, his wife and business partner—both with fine-dining backgrounds—envisioned putting on roving dinner parties based on an element of surprise. “We had big dreams of not revealing the address until the last minute, of being really secretive and edgy,” he says. “The whole idea was to get people who didn’t know each other to come together and mix.”
But as the business evolved, says Janke, so did the concept.
“Basically, what we do now is show up at someone’s home or other location where there’s a full kitchen. Often the venue is outdoors. We bring everything—tables, chairs, linens, plates, glasses—and do a six- course tasting menu for up to 16 people. We’ve done several versions for corporate groups, including one for doctors who were having a board meeting, and another for a group of bankers. They wanted to be able to meet and eat and talk in private, not in a restaurant or hotel, and this allowed them the privacy they needed without distrac- tions or intrusions. Both of those were in private homes.”
Besides pop-up dinner parties at other people’s homes, starting this summer the Jankes will have paying guests pop into theirs. Avid gardeners, the Jankes are remodeling their expansive back yard for use as a dinner party venue. “In addition to food, we’ll have a three- piece jazz band,” Janke says, adding that the long-term goal is “to have a place where we can grow our own produce and use it for Kitchen Kriminal.
“It may sound like flying under the radar,” he adds, “but in reality, it’s just another form of catering. We love the service end: getting people together, thinking how the table will look, taking care of guests, the whole process.”
Kitchen Kriminal serves a chef-selected six-course menu. All par- ties are BYOB, although the Jankes are happy to provide wine-pairing suggestions. A minimum of 12 guests is required, along with a work- ing stovetop and oven, and space for the table and chairs to fit, indoors or out.
A few tips: “Have a couple of dates you are considering, as usually we are booked a month in advance,” Janke says. “One week prior, we must have a final guest count and any dietary restrictions. We will usually schedule a site visit for new clients prior to the party in order to go over the setup, schedule and answer any questions.”