In the midst of a cold snap last weekend, twenty-one brave souls battled the subzero temperatures in search of a lane house somewhere in-between Huahai Lu and Nanjing Lu. We were of course on a promise of great food, wine and company for a Shanghai Dolls dinner, hosted by the creative Shanghai Supper Club. Suffice it to say we were not disappointed, and from our arrival at the stunning La Maison through dessert, we talked and drank as we devoured every last morsel of food. If you haven’t been acquainted with Shanghai Supper Club yet, they are an exciting production team on the Shanghai food scene. We love everything they stand for and furthermore we love the people behind it. SSC was was founded by Camden, an inspiring, driven young woman who has Shanghai eating out of the palm of her hand.
We were keen to know more about the origins of SSC and her other business, restaurant EGG. For the ‘love of food’, we jumped at the chance to interview Camden and SSCs’ creative director Olivia.
Hi, nice to meet you! Can you tell us how you found yourself in Shanghai? What do you do here?
Camden: I arrived in Shanghai from London (though I’m originally American!) where I had been working in advertising, but I had always nurtured a latent desire to get into Food + Beverage. Although I had never intended to stay longer than a few months, I quickly fell in love with this city, as it’s so full of interesting, driven people – a place that lets people pursue their passion, sometimes even in addition to a day job. And so within a year of arriving, I finally threw the first dinner of what would become Shanghai Supperclub. This was but a toe in the water of the SH food scene, and after meeting so many encouraging members of this inspiring community, last spring I took the plunge into full-time and opened my cafe-restaurant EGG (12 Xiangyang Lu, nr Julu Lu, FFC).
It’s such a great concept, can you tell us more about why you founded Shanghai Supper Club?
Camden: Shanghai Supperclub was founded on a belief that a love for food and fresh experiences is the best way to bring like-minded people together. We host renegade monthly dinners featuring a new chef in a new location for a new group of people from our subscriber base (register on shsupperclub.com!), which lets us combine the most interesting people, showcase the most talented chefs, and explore the most stunning venues Shanghai has to offer. We’ve been lucky enough to work with chefs like Willy (El Willy, Elefante, Tomatito), Austin Hu (Madison), Anna Bautista (Coquille, Scarpetta), Sean Jorgenson (Maya, Liquid Laundry), and even the full Jean-Georges team for our Two Year anniversary party at Three on the Bund. Thanks to Olivia coming on board last year, we also are now a full-scale event production company in addition to throwing our Supperclub monthly dinners.
Olivia: I joined the Shanghai Supperclub team a year ago in January 2015 while I was still with American Apparel. I’m from Hong Kong and came to Shanghai to build the fashion brand in China. After a while, I realized working in the fashion world was just not for me, and naturally looked towards F&B as I’ve always had that interest in the back of my head. I grew up hosting dinner parties for friends and family, and I loved it. So when Camden asked me to join the team while I was plotting my exit from the fashion world, I couldn’t say no. Our monthly dinners became a hit and people were asking us to organize their branding events, wedding receptions, corporate dinners, birthday parties, etc. and we quickly became a producer of bespoke events as well.
What does Egg offer that we can’t find at other eateries in Shanghai?
Camden: EGG focuses on the simple things: good coffee, good food, and good service in a comfortable environment. It is an answer to something I missed when I moved to Shanghai – there are plenty of fantastic specialty coffee places in Shanghai, but I couldn’t find a cafe that takes its food as seriously as its coffee, and makes you feel at home. Because of how well people responded to Supperclub, we also host a weekly Chefs Table dinner, where guest chefs serve tasting menus to 10 diners (released via our official Wechat EGGcafe at the beginning of every month).
You’re really supportive of other businesses here. Where do you like to eat?
Camden: Oh, man – this is the question that paralyzes me on a nightly basis! I tend to visit friend’s places, such as Pirata, Commune Social, Anna + Sean’s new classic French steakhouse Le Maurice and too many others to mention, or ones that are open late, like the tiny yakitori place on Changle Lu by Shaanxi Lu, or The Union Trading Co for comfort food (tater tot nachos!) and one of Yao’s strongest cocktails. To try and negate my daily over-indulgence, I try to make not-infrequent visits to Elixir for hotpot – the broth is so clean you can drink it by itself, and, surprisingly, it has some of the best rice in town.
Olivia: I go to Egg all the time and I live in the building right across from Maya the Mexican restaurant, so those are definitely my regulars. My all time favorite Shanghainese place is the original Old Jesse on Tianping Lu. I always get a seat at the wine bar across the street instead of the original restaurant where I get a quieter, less cramped, all-in-all better dining experience paired with great wines. Imperial Treasure on Beijing Lu is a regular for dimsum. I go to Coquille and Scarpetta very often as well, as my brother lives in the building complex right above. You’ll also find me at Ajiya for Yakiniku, Benjia for Korean BBQ, Nene and Mercato for Italian, Tsui Wah for late comfort Chinese food and Al’s Diner for Gracie’s Ice Cream.
What do you like to do in your spare time in Shanghai?
Camden: Unfortunately there hasn’t been much of that recently – I use any available downtime now to eat at favourite or new places and catch up with friends. I used to be a fairly avid runner, but now the most exercise I get is running up and down EGG’s stairs.
Olivia: My boyfriend owns a night club so I’m there a lot – ha! Outside of that and working I find myself at new gallery openings, art fairs or new local exhibitions, which have primarily been on the West Bund the last few months. I also work out a lot–cycling, barre, and high intensive interval training sessions take up a lot of my spare time as I make it a priority to get my exercise in at least 5 times a week.
What’s your advice to anyone starting a business here?
Camden: As my friend Lexie (of Strictly Cookies) told me, “In Shanghai, anything is possible, but everything is difficult.” I think there’s no better way to encapsulate the amazing opportunity yet infinite number of daily frustrations here. It’s important to just keep pushing – if you’ve watched any Shanghai taxi driver screaming match, you’ll know pure stubbornness often pays off!
Read more here http://www.shsupperslub.com and take a trip for brunch at EGG, 12 Xiangyang Lu, nr Julu Lu.