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Sort-of Secret: K.Dinners, a supper club hosted by a Michelin-star-calibre chef inside a ceramics studio

Part of our series spotlighting the city’s edible hidden gems

By Meredith Hardie| Photography by Marc Santos
Sort-of Secret: K.Dinners, a supper club hosted by a Michelin-star-calibre chef inside a ceramics studio

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The sort-of secret: K.Dinners, a sensory supper club in a converted studio space You may have heard of it if: You’ve taken a pottery class at Goji Studio
But you probably haven’t tried it because: The wait-listed dining series just rebooted earlier this year, and it’s capped at only 10 guests per dinner   We don’t often think about all the ways we can engage with our food beyond eating or Instagramming it. Ken Yau is hoping to change this. “I’ve always wanted to work with my hands; how I feel things really matters,” says the Toronto chef, whose supper club takes guests on a sensory journey where playing with their food is heavily encouraged.

Chef Ken Yau and his partner, Ashley Tse, inside Goji Studio

“I want my food to be interactive. I want people to think a little bit,” he explains of the 10-course, tactile dinners hosted inside a converted studio space (it’s a former leather workshop in the Upper Beaches) that he shares with his partner, Ashley Tse. “It’s not a garage—it just has a garage door,” Yau says. “And it has a small kitchen. It’s honestly all I need.” The 700-square-foot studio, complete with a mostly working electric stovetop (one of the four burners is kaput), is a far cry from the Michelin-star kitchens Yau spent most of his professional career in—Nota Bene, Scaramouche, the Fat Duck—until burnout brought him back home to Toronto.

K.Dinners, a supper club hosted by chef Ken Yau, is held inside a converted studio in Toronto's east end
The communal table inside Goji Studio, a ceramic shop where chef Ken Yau hosts his K.Dinners supper club

“I was always chasing Michelin stars to validate what I was doing—but, in the beginning, I loved learning, and food was all about comforting people,” Yau says. This aha moment came seven years ago, when he was between restaurant jobs. Shortly afterward, he started the k.Dinners pop-up series. Back then, Yau would rent out a different Toronto restaurant every week to prep and cook 12-course meals for up to 16 guests, all by himself. “It just grew and grew,” he recalls, and it kept going until the pandemic forced a much-needed pause for Yau, who hadn’t really taken a break since starting the series. (It’s also when he took the time to have some light spinal surgery.)

Chef Ken Yau prepares for another edition of his supper club, K.Dinners
Ashley Tse greets K.Dinner supper club guests

Three years later, Yau is doing things differently. “The second time around, we made everything super personal,” he says of k.Dinners 2.0, which he now runs with Tse. The two have melded their talents to create a space that Yau calls “us as a whole experience.” From the handmade ceramic dishes the food is served on to Tse’s illustrations that hang on the studio walls, k.Dinners has enough room for both of their creative minds to flourish. “It’s a place where we can heal ourselves,” says Yau.

Yau still prepares all the food by himself, but Tse, who runs the service, encouraged him to cap the weekly dinners at 10 people. “The definition of food has really changed for me,” he says. “I’m re-evaluating everything.” What hasn’t changed is the level of skill and technique he brings to each dish, like a delicately chopped steak tartare garnished with pickled red fruits and vegetables, so guests don’t know whether they’re about to bite into a buttery piece of meat or a sour beet.

Guests arrive for a recent edition of K.Dinners, a Toronto-based supper club hosted by chef Ken Yau
Guests at a recent K.Dinners supper club edition sit at a table decorated with handmade ceramics

He can take a humble congee and turn it into a bowl of extravagance packed with abalone, crab meat and tender pork jowl cooked in a rich chicken broth. It also packs a punch with white pepper and a reduced crayfish sauce overtop. “It’s full on,” says Yau.

The menu provides Yau with the ability to integrate his and Tse’s new obsession with ceramics, which has transformed into an entirely new business venture, Goji Studio. “Before, I would just put food on a plate,” says Yau, “Now, I go backward. Now, it’s like, How can I use this vessel to enhance the experience?"

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Colourful beef tartare by chef Ken Yau
Ashley Tse helps plate dishes for an edition of K.Dinners, chef Ken Yau's supper club

The dish that encapsulates this synergy most is Yau’s caramelized onion soup. The piping-hot soup, slowly cooked sous-vide for four whole days, gets poured into ice-cold bowls that refuse to sit flat on the table. Each guest must hold their flimsy bowl and feel the warmth in their hands. There are no spoons either, so slurping up the deeply flavourful, slightly sweet broth is fair game. Then, instead of tipping at the end of the dinner, guests, if they wish, can purchase a ceramic piece that speaks to them.

As the seasons and Yau’s experiences change, so will the dishes—but a sense of fun and play will remain. “One day, people may not remember my food,” says Yau, “but they will remember the experience they had.”

One of the dishes served at a recent K.Dinners supper club in Toronto
A fish dish served on a handmade ceramic plate at a recent edition of K.Dinners
Ashley Tse and chef Ken Yau

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