Five Years In, Dinner in the Dark Plans Tasty Reunion


When Brian Okin launched Dinner in the Dark five years ago, he did so merely on a whim. He and co-founding chefs Jeff Jarrett and Ellis Cooley thought it would be fun to round up some chef pals, provide them with the space and freedom to prepare creative dishes, and see what happens.

For their part, participating diners would submit to a meal – experience, really – where everything from the food and drink to the chefs is a total surprise, hence the name “Dinner in the Dark.” The formula has been described as an “open mic, jam session for chefs,” and it has been such a success that they’ve pretty much been selling out monthly for five years.

Since that very first dinner at Okin’s Verve restaurant on Carnegie there have been some special meals prepared by many of the city’s top culinary talent. There also have been some interesting reunions, like the one at Grove Hill in Chagrin Falls that featured a group of chefs who all worked together at Moxie 20 years ago.

For the next event, scheduled for Monday, October 19, Okin and his partners once again are breaking with tradition to arrange a reunion of sorts.

“Because it was going to be our five-year anniversary, we thought it would be a nice idea if we could do it in the original spot with the original chefs,” Okin says.

Of course, that original spot no longer is Verve, it’s Hotspot Café. No problem, notes Okin, adding that the current owners, former Verve regulars, gladly offered up the space for the cause.

Also, chef Ellis Cooley no longer lives or works in Cleveland. No problem, notes Okin (Cork & Cleaver, Graffiti), adding that Cooley will make the return trip from Florida to join his co-founders and other inaugural chefs like Adam Bostwick (Cork & Cleaver, Graffiti), Matt Mathlage (Peachtree Southern), Brandt Evans (Pura Vida) and Brian Toomey (Cork & Cleaver).

Given the circumstances, Okin is predicting a pretty special evening.

“I really think it’s going to be interesting because these chefs were the very first ones, so they’re really going to bring their game this time – not that they didn’t before,” Okin says. “I think they’ll really go over the top because it’s our five-year anniversary.”

As always, the proceeds from the night’s ticket sales will be donated to a charity, which is also revealed that night. And given the setting, diners will have access to plenty of free parking in the adjacent lot, Okin points out.

Get your tickets here.

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