The Secret’s Out

Foodies are flocking to this pop-up restaurant

With a cult-like following, the Secret Sauce Society serves avant-garde plates for adventurous diners seeking an exclusive experience.

_MG_2475Hudson Slater, a Gig Harbor native and local chef, dreamed of an opportunity to craft whimsical food outside of the familiar establishments where he clocked his culinary hours. He enjoyed plating the usual steak and fish entrees found on most classy restaurant menus, but wished for an avenue to cook food that pushed boundaries — food reimagined.

With an urge to find a creative outlet, he noticed a new concept dubbed “pop-up” restaurants becoming increasingly popular in cities around the country. Pop-ups are usually set for one night only, offering a chef-driven menu in a mysterious location. With help from friends, Slater’s idea of the Secret Sauce Society became reality. In summer of 2014, he set up camp at Early Bird Farms in Puyallup, and strung eggs through every one of his eight courses. He served eggs raw, deviled, poached, pickled, fried, and everything in between. He cooked without any substitutions or special requests. With diners satisfied and eager for another tasting, he knew his pop-up concept satiated the cravings of South Sound foodies.

As soon as the first Secret Sauce Society dinner was finished, Slater was on the hunt for the next location. Once the venue was determined, he conceptualized the menu playing off the unpredictable location. From cherry orchards to cigar lounges, he thought of creative spaces he could showcase food most have never tasted.

Every few months through Instagram or Facebook, he invites his social media followers to come and dine. Over the last 18 months, he’s hosted the “society” several times. Once there was a jazz band playing as he served upscale carnival food like shrimp and basil corn dogs topped with hoisin mustard, and foie gras mousse elephant ears with pickled strawberries.

Chef Hudson Slater

Chef Hudson Slater

He plated his spin on old-fashioned classics and served it up in a barbershop. That night guests enjoyed bourbon pork belly baked potatoes, and coriander duck a l’orange with orange chili reduction.

Another time he partnered with Seattle artist Jesse Link, and created dishes inspired from Link’s bright collection featuring Northwest flora and fauna. That night the society dined on seared rabbit loin atop roasted beets, and salmon gravlax aside roasted garlic custard.

Most recently, Slater partnered with Wingman Brewers in downtown Tacoma to pair eight courses with Tacoma craft beers. Wingman Brewers owner Ken Thoburn said, “I hadn’t seen this as a possibility until Hudson approached me. This is where manufacturing meets fine food.” Guests gathered at the brewery greeted by stainless steel tanks and pallets of barley to taste Slater’s eccentric menu. Highlights of the night included juicy pork belly with kimchi atop purple cabbage puree, paired with fruity raspberry brett saison. And a “Chicago dog” sausage ragout, paired with a citrus lime sour. Tender braised lamb soaked with espresso hollandaise paired perfectly with the chocolate notes of a P-51 porter. Carrot cake panna cotta finished with fennel ice candy paired with a bright carrot cake beer, a Wingman signature brew.

_MG_1981“I want people to interact, bond over food, and try a new experience,” Slater said. The Secret Sauce Society has allowed his passion to entertain those hungry for an exotic culinary experience.

Other chefs in the local culinary community have come alongside Slater volunteering to execute no less than seven courses at each tasting. RJ Adler, assistant manager at Pint Defiance and avid diner with the Secret Sauce Society, said, “I appreciate Hudson’s dedication to the craft, to experimentation. It’s a sensory experience where different people from different walks of life converge.”

Join the Secret Sauce Society
What started as 20 diners at an egg farm has now turned into more than 250 people following the Secret Sauce Society on Facebook, awaiting updates on future secret dinner parties. Eager diners are happy to shell out anywhere from $55 to $125 per ticket to nab a coveted seat. Learn more by following the Secret Sauce Society on Facebook or Slater’s Instagram @flavorhammer.

See Chef Slater at Marrow
When Slater isn’t scheming over his next pop-up dinner, you can find him at Marrow on Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue. Try a Wednesday night tasting at Marrow where Slater is behind the scenes cooking scrumptious food weekly.

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