There is nothing like a meal prepared by the hands of someone who is passionate about their craft and confident in their approach. That's the essence of dining with Chef Tonia Renae, a professional personal chef and founder of Bless Supper Club. Perched at her counter, in a kitchen personally styled and renovated by her wife, it felt like I was at home dining with an old friend. I was impressed by the personal and refreshing dining experience, and her effortless finesse as she maneuvered about her space. As I admired her genius at work I got the opportunity to discuss her life, her aspirations and how food became her passion and art.
Table Talk with Chef tonia Renae
WHAT SHE PREPARED
Pan-Seared Scallops with Asparagus and Purple Potatoes
Originally from Connecticut, Chef Tonia moved to Philadelphia nearly a decade ago. She playfully (yet candidly) admits her culinary journey stemmed from a necessity to "show off on a budget." Little did she know that learning how to make what some would consider more "high brow dishes" on modest means would ultimately ignite her life’s passion. Today, with over twenty years of experience, formal training in the culinary arts and an impressive resume in the food and hospitality industry, she has taken on the role of professional private chef, recipe developer and curator of phenomenal dining experiences through her brainchild Bless Supper Club.
BLESS SUPPER CLUB & BEING A PRIVATE CHEF
In October of 2016 Chef Tonia created Bless Supper Club, a pop-up dinner series. Partnering with her wife, Bless Supper Club centers on creating a unique and creative dining experience for foodies of all backgrounds. The supper club, which takes place in the comforts of their home, has allowed them both to nurture what they call a "creative movement" propelled by both of their passions.
Being extremely introspective, Chef Tonia sees each supper club event as an opportunity to try something new and improve on the past. With this in mind, each event places an emphasis on fresh décor and a curated menu focused on the season or an event occurring during that time of year. Past themes have included a southern style brunch, and "Fat Tuesday." Another event is in the works for the near future, and she is sure it will be something different than what any attendee has experienced before.
Photos from @cheftoniarenae on Instagram
As with many of us, nostalgia is the basis of Chef Tonia's favorite meal to prepare: Chicken and Dumplings. She is confident that hers is as good as your grandmother's and has a "Chicken and Dumplings Fan Club" to prove it! She recalls the first time she introduced her recipe to her wife, and how it was an instant hit with her friends and family. Now, there's a "Chicken and Dumplings" fan club ! While she enjoys experimenting with different types of cuisine, she notes that seafood (of all types) is her "specialty of the moment." She also loves to infuse Caribbean spices and influences into her dishes. For my meal she prepared a simply but perfectly pan-seared scallops paired with asparagus and purple potatoes. Her technique was flawless, the flavors were impeccable, and it was all prepared within a blink of an eye.
When it comes to dining locally, there is a top contender: South Restaurant and Jazz Parlor. She's attracted to the live jazz music and the delicious southern-inspired menu. She also vouches for their top-notch quality of service and cuisine. An honorable mention: Chili Garden, a recent favorite of hers and her family. Chili Garden located in University City, and boasts a menu of authentic Chinese and Asian cuisine.
Excited by the open possibilities the future might present to her, Chef Tonia informs, very humbly, that she has seen her following on social media increase steadily. She says, with a smile,
"this means at least two or five people are paying attention." As her brand grows, she has been offered a number of opportunities to grow her business and venture into new spaces. More recently, this has led to her becoming a private chef for a local NFL player as well as being tapped to participate in food-related Philadelphia events. With these accolades under her belt, she is looking forward to attracting and working with new clients to offer more in-home private dining experiences and events. Although these desires are immediate, being the owner of a small restaurant is a long-standing dream she looks forward to actualizing in the future.
For now, Chef Tonia is taking opportunities as they come to her, and continuing to focus on what she is most passionate about making great food for the people who appreciate it most.