Food & Drink

Sort-of Secret: Oui Aïa, a monthly supper club held at a private location in downtown Toronto

The address is revealed to guests only after they’ve purchased tickets

By Tiffany Leigh| Photography by Joshua Best
Sort-of Secret: Oui Aïa, a monthly supper club held at a private location in downtown Toronto

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The sort-of secret: Oui Aïa, a monthly supper club You may have heard of it if: You’ve come across it in Instagram stories or posts from friends or friends of friends But you probably haven’t because: It takes place only once a month at a private residence in downtown Toronto   Ayah Hanafieh’s family was the inspiration for her supper club. “I always admired my mother and grandmother’s hearty cooking, which is to date the best food I have tried in my life—they made me appreciate food and flavour,” she says. “I was born and raised in Jordan, but my family is originally from Palestine, and to them, food represents hospitality and consideration. Love is communicated through feeding one another and making sure that our loved ones are satisfied.” For Hanafieh, cooking is a natural extension of her identity, a nourishing outlet for personal growth and a grounding activity that allows her to stay present in the moment.

Chef Ayah Hanafieh in her dining room
Chef Ayah Hanafieh
Chef Ayah Hanafieh at the head of the table in her dining room full of supper club guests
A full house for a recent Oui Aïa supper club

Hanafieh didn’t attend culinary school but instead honed her skills working at numerous restaurants including Earls, Clio and, most recently, Madrina Bar y Tapas. She didn’t see herself working in restaurants forever, though. “I came to the realization that the restaurant industry is not for me because of the long hours and weekend shifts as well as the physical and mental strain. I decided that I would rather invest in myself and make my own schedule.”

Guests at a Oui Aïa supper club dig into a sharing plate of guacamole
Guests pass a cauliflower dish at a recent Oui Aïa supper club
A duo of oysters
Lemon squares

She came up with the idea for a supper club in 2020 and began experimenting with making her own tasting menus, serving them to family and friends. She launched Oui Aïa to the public this past April. The name is a harmonious union of her professional and personal spheres. “It’s a combination of ‘Oui, chef’—which, in French, is the respectful way that members of a kitchen team respond to the sous or head chef—and Aïa, which is my first name but spelled differently.”

The supper clubs are in a private location that’s revealed to guests only once they’ve purchased tickets. These sociable suppers occur once a month, and no two menus are the same, but each includes eight to 10 dishes served tapas-style as well as a complimentary cocktail, all for $100 per guest. Hanafieh’s hope is that her supper club can foster organic interactions among friends and strangers around a communal table.

Oui Aïa's dining room, lit by twinkle lights and candles
Candles light up Oui Aïa's dining room when night falls
A custom Bingo card keeps friends and strangers talking at a recent Oui Aïa supper club

“It’s an opportunity to meet like-minded people while dining, and it’s turned out to be a fun, intimate social experiment—dining with strangers but leaving as friends,” she says. If any awkward silences occur, they’re mitigated with icebreaker-style activities spread out on the table (Q&A cards, a custom bingo game) and liquid courage in the form of that complimentary drink (most recently, a spicy margarita) to loosen the tongue up a bit. But dialogue is typically generated by everyone’s collective love of food, and there are plenty of audible oohs and aahs when the dishes arrive.

A supper club guest does a bump of caviar
Caviar appetizers
Chef Ayah Hanafieh grates parmesan cheese onto pasta
A plate of beer-battered fish and chips

July’s supper club celebrated summer with creations like lobster tail guacamole laced with mango, shallots and tortilla chips; zippy broiled oysters swimming in crème fraîche, citrus and cilantro; and a peanut-and-cabbage salad tossed with cucumber, apples, fennel, cherry tomatoes and chili oil to form a textural wonderland. It’s worth noting that Hanafieh manages to pull off a spread like this—for a crowd of 12 to 15 people—in her tiny, shoebox-size kitchen.

Sometimes, when Hanafieh isn’t busy preparing the next course, she’ll peek out from the drape-partitioned kitchen to chat with guests. It’s how we learn that, on this occasion, her beer-battered cod, served with a parsley-and-tahini dip, honours a dish that Hanafieh’s grandmother made for her when she was younger. It’s these kinds of bonding moments that can’t always be replicated at a typical restaurant—and are what ultimately have guests spreading the word and returning with more friends in tow.

OUI AÏA,, @oui_aia

A supper club guest takes a photo of chef Ayah Hanafieh with her phone
Chef Ayah Hanafieh lights the candles on a cake
Chef Ayah Hanafieh in her kitchen


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