It's basically a dinner party—six courses, one-off menus, perfect strangers.

Tasting Collective began in 2016 in New York City: a modern dining club in which guests buckle in for a one-off, six-course meal. Now, it’s expanded into eight cities—DC, Denver, San Francisco, and other such major food towns, clocking in at about 5,000 members—with Seattle set as its ninth venture.

Tasting Collective makes sense at a time in which popups are often the hottest dining events in town. Both signal a sort of one-night-only, FOMO-inducing dinner where chefs get to flex some out-of-box culinary skills—and restaurants get to fill up the whole dining room on slow days.

Founder Nat Gelb says “human connection” is what’s central to Tasting Collective dinners. “Getting to hear from the chefs and hear their stories, inspiration behind the restaurant, their first food really at the core at our events.” But the dialogue goes both ways: Diners provide feedback for chefs for each course in what Gelb describes as a closed loop system—no public Yelp “reviews,” but courteous constructive criticisms that chefs appreciate, he says. 

Dinners are usually a split between a restaurant’s crowd-pleaser menu staples and the chef’s more trial-mode dishes. But being a guinea pig, says Gelb, is a part of the experience. And Gelb, whose background is in startups and building common interest or shared identity membership communities, gets experience-based projects.

The first collaboration dinners that Gelb’s lined up involve some quite recognizable names. Sitka and Spruce’s executive chef Danny Conkling will kick things off on September 24 at the Capitol Hill restaurant. Chef-owner Josh Delgado of Le Coin in Fremont and Logan Cox’s Beacon Hill restaurant Homer will follow. Those dates will be released to members as details are finalized. 

Tasting Collective membership opens today. The yearly rate is $99 for the first 250 members who sign up, and $165 after that. Members then get access to six-course dinners, tickets for which run $50 typically. Gelb says up to three guests are allowed but the actual card-carrying Tasting Collective member has to be present too. (There are actual dining cards—they’re wood—which you don’t technically need on-hand at events, but you can flash them at other Tasting Collective participating restaurants in Seattle and any of the other eight cities for member perks, like a cocktail on the house.) Dinners are every other week in each city—which means, yes, you can make a Tasting Collective dinner stop in DC if you happen to be in the capital.

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