A members-only dining club is expanding to Las Vegas this month, offering five-course dinners at three local restaurants to those who join.
Currently operating in 12 cities, including New York, Austin and Chicago, Tasting Collective pairs chef-owned businesses with members who want to meet other food-obsessed people and try off-menu dishes when they dine.
At each biweekly event, members may sit at communal tables while the chef talks the group through each course, often sharing personal stories and engaging in discussion with curious diners.
Memberships cost $165 annually, with the first 500 Las Vegas memberships costing $115. Tickets to dinners are priced at $60. Restaurants keep the full ticket price, with Tasting Collective profiting only with memberships.
Restaurants benefit by receiving immediate feedback on dishes and filling the house on an otherwise slow night, says founder Nat Gelb.
Gelb says he grew up in upstate New York in a rural area with no restaurants. “My family always came together and connected over food,” he says. “I moved to the city and found that the human connection at home was missing in restaurant food.”
Gelb launched the club in New York City in 2016 and has since grown the club to more than 7,000 members.
Bouncing back from a roughly 18-month hiatus due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gelb is eager to expand the club to Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas is exactly the food scene that works with what we do,” says Gelb. “We want to work with well-respected and well-known restaurants and chef-owners who used to work in Strip restaurants, and I’m excited to finally do that.”
The first of the 20 to 30 events that Tasting Collective will launch in Las Vegas this year takes place on June 15 at Spanish restaurant Valencian Gold.
Jeffrey Weiss, the chef at Valencian Gold and author of Charcuteria; The Soul of Spain, says he is looking forward to building a “fun menu with more higher-end stuff.”
While he generally dishes out a selection of tapas, charcuterie and paella at his restaurant, Weiss is taking the Tasting Collective dinner as an opportunity to prepare an Iberico pork dish called presa as one of the courses.
“In Spain, they butcher pigs slightly differently,” says the 2015 James Beard Award nominee, who spent over a year cooking in Spain with Jose Andres. “Presa means ‘the prize.’ It’s a really delicious collar with muscles and muscle fat cut into steaks and roasted.”
Weiss will serve the presa with migas, which he describes as a peasant dish made with dry cracker-like bread grated into breadcrumbs and toasted with bacon.
“It’s a unique opportunity for us at the restaurant. And it’s a fun opportunity for me to interact with guests,” says Weiss.
Subsequent events are planned for Boom Bang in Henderson and Ada’s Wine Bar in Tivoli Village.