Hyssop Supper Club is described by its organizers as a “farm-to-table dinner series that celebrates the bounty of locally-grown food.”

All of those details are accurate, but the real reason to make the journey down to Red Hook is the shared-table experience. Each Supper Club event offers a unique four course pre-fixe dinner at a long shared table. It can almost feel like a “rustic wedding dinner,” except that the food (and music) is actually very good.

And while sharing a meal with strangers might sound like a nightmare to some people, plenty of others are hungry for human connection — yes, especially now.

Images of people and food at a dinner party

Chef Melinda Tracy in the kitchen

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Chef Melinda Tracy in the kitchen
Sai Mokhtari/Gothamist

Hyssop itself isn’t exactly a restaurant — at least, not yet. Chef Melinda Tracy created the space in order to bring together her work as a personal chef and her love for dinner parties and food experiences. Tracy cooked in other people’s homes, out of her own home and from rental kitchens for 13 years before finally securing her Red Hook space in 2019.

“The plan was always to do the supper club,” Tracy told Gothamist during a recent event. “I wanted to do the personal chef work in the background, and it was always about, how can I throw a dinner party for the public? I moved into this space in October of 2019 with the target date of throwing the first Hyssop Supper event that April.”

Then came the pandemic. As soon as the first shutdowns happened, Tracy’s private clients abandoned the city for their second homes, as those who hire private chefs can often do, and Tracy found herself starting back at zero. She turned to other cooks she was working with for ideas.

One said, “When people are stressed and sick, you make soup.”

Images of people and food at a dinner party

It took two long years for Chef Melinda Tracy to realize her dream of creating the shared-dining experience she envisioned.

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It took two long years for Chef Melinda Tracy to realize her dream of creating the shared-dining experience she envisioned.
Sai Mokhtari/Gothamist

So that’s just what she did. Initially working on a plywood floor with a single sink, fridge and stove, Tracy made soup by the quart, and sold it out the front door of her space for months to stay afloat. She later pivoted to selling prepared food boxes to the neighborhood, and even offered brunch in the garden last summer. As private clients gradually returned to the city, Tracy regained the financial stability she needed to return to her initial goal of the supper club events.

It took Tracy two difficult years to realize her dream of Hyssop Supper, but she’s convinced the timing has worked out perfectly. “As things started to open up, people were wanting to connect,” she said. “They were coming to it from a different place — they’re not coming from a 2019 mindset of 'let’s go out to dinner and critique the food.' They’re coming to it from a more open-hearted place, where they want to connect with other people and are open to meeting new people.”

The first Hyssop Supper event was held on June 4th, and the series has continued every other Saturday since. On July 2nd, Tracy's menu included lovage vichyssoise, haricots verts, roasted cod and a Spanish almond torte. Everything was delicious, but Tracy's real point, here and throughout her series, is as much about creating a memorable experience.

“It’s been wonderful,” Tracy said. “Sometimes everyone is talking to everyone, people are getting up and switching seats and exchanging info…other times it’s much calmer, but people seem to love it. I’ve had people come up afterwards and tell me, 'Wow, that was such a lovely experience, I feel like I went somewhere!'"

Tracy smiled widely. “Whatever they say about the food, I don’t even care — that’s what I want!”

Hyssop Supper events take place every other Saturday at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. at 293 Van Brunt St. in Brooklyn. Price is $65 per person and seating is limited to 16 diners. Organic wines, local beers and mocktails are also available for purchase on site.