There’s nothing new about a designer expanding her creativity to the food realm. But the team at The Plaid Penguin, a design shop in Charlotte, NC, realized that the two topics go hand-in-hand more than might be expected—because all grand ideas come from bright minds sitting around the dinner table.
With that concept as their food for thought, The Plaid Penguin decided to launch a large-scale dinner party. The vision was to create unique cuisine-centered events that would not only fill stomachs, but also raise awareness for the team’s services—without spending a dime on marketing or advertising.
“That first event was a magical one,” says Kara Hollinger-Bulla, “creative mastermind” at The Plaid Penguin. The debut event was themed an “Evening at the Plantation,” and included a four-course meal that was locally sourced, featuring a “twigs and berries” salad, North Carolina trout and a peach tart. Diners gathered around a long farmhouse table on the lawn outside a historic plantation house and ate under the glow of candles and Christmas lights.
“The response was overwhelming,” Hollinger-Bulla recalls. And with that, Relish Carolina, a roaming culinary and activity club that recreates the lost practice of dinnertime, was launched. The premise is simple: Guests buy tickets and bring their own plates. Then they gather ’round the table to share a meal with the other attendees. Since the first event, Relish Carolina has hosted creative dinner parties all over the city with themes such as “Paella & a Picture” and “Hellish Seafood Boil.”
The parties are more than just food and drink, though. For The Plaid Penguin team, they’re a chance to experiment with their creativity in 3D. Together, they design everything for the event, from the table signs and the vessel the olive oil sits in to the parting gift for attendees. “We dig deep and really carry through each event theme, staying true to the commitment of curating truly magical experiences for our guests,” Hollinger-Bulla says. “We view it as an opportunistic playground where we can do whatever we can dream up visually.”
HOW’s Behind the Design issue celebrates the inner workings of design teams, examining everything from the inspiring workspaces that help keep their creativity afloat to profiles about studios creating buzz coast-to-coast. This issue also features the surprising (and surprisingly great) results of our 2014 salary survey, and a close look at the HOW Interactive Design Award Winners. Check it out in print, or on your favorite device.