Dark Dining

A dinner where you don't know who's cooking or what's coming out of the kitchen sounds like a potluck gone awry. Chef Brian Okin, formerly of Verve, calls it Dinner in the Dark. He's teamed with Amp 150's Ellis Cooley and Palate's Jeff Jarrett to create a dinner series in which culinary dream teams with guest chefs such as Dante Boccuzzi create four- to six-course mystery meals. "It's an open-mic jam session for chefs and for a good cause," Jarrett says. He, Okin and Cooley shed some light on their surprise suppers.

What types of dishes do you do?
Okin: Fried pig ears, octopus, garlic pudding and braised short ribs to name a few. This is really a creative window for chefs to do something imaginative and out of the box if they want. It doesn't have to be crazy though. Some chefs just stick to what they're really good at.
Why make it a charity event?
Cooley: We don't get out of the kitchen much, so we wanted to give back to the community. ... We raised about $3,500 dollars at each dinner for Veggie U and the Grace and Lucy Rothgery Memorial Fund, respectively. We try to keep it personal, especially if the charity pulls at our heartstrings.
What's it like to cook with the other chefs in the same kitchen?
Jarrett: It's fantastic to see how the other chefs approach the food and how they express themselves on the plate. It's special working with someone you normally would never get a chance to; if you stop wanting to learn, you're never going to grow as a chef. There's a lot of respect in that kitchen, and the talent is amazing.

Dinner in the Dark is hosted once a month, on the first Monday that falls in the teens. The next event will be Jan. 17 at Palate in Strongsville at 6:30 p.m.

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