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Culture on the Menu: A Night with the Delta Supper Club

Words: Brent Rosen
Recipes: Alex Harrell
Photos: Tate Nations

For one night, the Delta Supper Club transformed an airplane hangar on a private strip in Greenwood, Mississippi, into the most interesting restaurant in the Delta. That’s not a knock on standards like Doe’s, or Giardina’s, or any of the venerable catfish-aterias scattered across the region. No, a Delta Supper Club night is different. It’s a celebration of Delta culture that cannot be contained within the walls of a traditional “eat place.”

Delta Supper Club Alex Harrell 
Chef Alex Harrell

The event in Greenwood was the Delta Supper Club’s third in Mississippi. Greenwood followed dinners at The New Roxy cinema in Clarksdale and at Dockery Farms in Cleveland. “We’re setting up ‘satellite restaurants’ in historical, yet nontraditional locations, and bringing star chefs in to provide dinners for people who crave something really exciting and different,” explained Kimme Hargrove, one of the Delta Supper Club Founders. But more than an excuse to have a good time, the Supper Club dinners have become a focal point for those who want to celebrate the Delta’s past while looking toward its future.

Delta Supper Club Hanger Plane
Flight Demonstration Outside the Hangar

The airplane hangar venue was no pop-up gimmick, but a means to educate diners about an important, yet often forgotten piece of Delta history. During World War II, Greenwood–Leflore Airport served as a training facility for the Women’s Army Service Pilots (WASPS). Seventy years ago, hundreds of female pilots trained in the hangar where 175 people were seated for this dinner. Costumed re-enactors told the story of the WASPS, and a buzzing flight demonstration of WWII era aircraft signaled the end of cocktail hour and the beginning of dinner.

Delta Supper Club Lady
Costumed Re-enactor

Chef Alex Harrell of New Orleans’ restaurant Angeline played star. The Delta Supper Club invited him upriver to cook a five-course meal. Working from a portable kitchen supplied by Greenwood-based Viking Range, Harrell prepared pickled shrimp, corn, cucumber and tomato salad, whole roasted red snapper, roasted lamb shoulder, and Mississippi blueberry cobbler. Delta Supper Club co-founders David Crews and Stewart Robinson assisted, as did fellow Louisiana Chef to Watch Cory Bahr, who appeared from nowhere with an apron and the statement “have knives, will travel.”

Delta Supper Club Shrimp Plating
Plating Pickled Shrimp (click for recipe)

Guests from throughout the Delta mingled in the hangar. Cleveland businesspeople clapped their Clarksdale counterparts on the back. College friends from Greenville and Greenwood reunited. Folks who’d moved to Memphis came home to catch up with friends who’d stayed. The crowd represented the Delta’s interconnectedness, a 7,000-square-mile flood plain where everyone seems to know everyone else.

Delta Supper Club Plating

Fermented Corn Salad (click for recipe), Chef Cory Bahr Plating Desert, Chef David Crews Plating Smoked Whole Snapper (from left)

Behind the hangar, the kitchen trailer’s smokers, fryers, grills, ranges, and ovens whirled with activity. Harrell salted red snapper, Bahr chopped vegetables for the salad, Crews tended the smoker’s coals with a blowtorch to keep the fire at level intensity. Large platters lined the long tables next to the outdoor kitchen, ready for plating and service.

Delta Supper Club Shoulder

Chef Harrell Finishing Lamb Shoulder with Pink Eyed Peas (click for recipe)

After three events, the Delta Supper Club’s impact on the region has been overwhelmingly positive. Hundreds of diners from at least six states have come to Mississippi to spend the night, or even a weekend, in small Delta towns they would not have otherwise visited. “These people are buying gas, eating breakfast and lunch, all the while learning the history and heritage and why these Delta towns are so important to our South,” said Hargrove. “We are rich in culture,” Hargrove continued, “and these events bring that culture to life.”

Delta Supper Club Plane

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Delta Supper Club

2017-01-12T13:07:31+00:00

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