On a rainy night, thirty souls braved the bad weather to drive to Flora for a unique dinner experience. They entered a small brick building next to the railroad tracks where they were greeted inside by beautifully set communal tables lined with softly glowing votive candles. An artful multi-level charcuterie board was heavy with sausages, pastrami, and other savory meats along side a variety of cheeses, peppers, grapes and more. Each guest was offered a glass of rose’ and invited to visit amongst themselves. Soon the guests were asked to be seated as The Flora Supper Club was about to begin.
Chef David Raines stepped out of the kitchen and into the dining room to announce each of the six courses throughout the evening. Each dish featured locally sourced ingredients, including salad greens from Salad Days, vegetables from Two Dog Farm, and grits from the Original Grit Girl in Oxford. A representative from a winery in California paired wines with each course and talked to the guests about each wine. By the end of the evening, guests were satisfactorily satiated, many saying they would like to do it again soon.
As a matter of fact, despite the premium price of the evening, there have been many who have been to the Flora Supper Club on repeat. It’s more than just a meal. The entire evening is an experience. Time is taken between courses and people enjoy visiting. For four hours, thunder clapped, and lighting flashed outside the little brick building, but inside plates of food were served and wine was poured. Each course was savored, and guests discussed the flavors with one another. Conversations led to food memories of meals eaten at restaurants around the world. There is no doubt that the people who attended The Flora Supper Club on that rainy night will remember the experience for a long time to come.
Raines enjoys the freedom the supper club gives him to exercise his creative muscles in the kitchen. “I have not served the same dish twice since I’ve been doing this,” he says. The first event was held last winter, and so far there have been thirty dinners, all open to the public on a first come, first served basis. “We are doing about four dinners a month,” he says. “I am doing the kind of cooking I really enjoy.”
After living and working in exotic places around the globe, one may wonder how Michelin-trained chef David Raines ended up in Flora, Mississippi. “My wife liked it here,” he says. “She thought it would be a great place to raise our two children. After being in the area a while, I had to agree with her.”
Being a chef is a second career for Raines, who first worked in the financial sector. But when he decided to dive into the culinary world, the Monroe, Louisiana native did it in a big way. He received his culinary degree from the prestigious Johnson & Wales and continued his education in the culinary field with classes in international bread making at New York’s French Culinary Institute, Master of Regional Italian Cuisine in Jesi, Italy, and intense classes in wine at the Guild of Master Sommeliers in New Orleans.
His work took him abroad to Japan Australia, Italy and finally to Denmark, where he met his wife. The couple moved to New Orleans where he cooked at Emeril Legasse’s Nola before he landed at Restaurant R’evolution in the heart of the French Quarter, creating award-winning cuisine inspired by the gastronomic traditions of the seven nations associated with New Orleans history.
When the owners of Restaurant R’evolution opened Seafood R’evolution in Ridgeland in 2012, they brought Raines in for the launch. Raines made it clear he would only be there for one year. “I thought we would be here for a year and move on,” he says. It was during that year that Raines’ wife fell in love with Madison County.
After leaving Seafood R’evolution, Raines acquired an historic building in downtown Flora and spent a year of planning before opening his farm-to-table butcher shop, Flora Butcher, in 2016.
Raines learned the art of butchery from Chef Ryan Farr at 4505 Meets in San Francisco. The old-world-style shop has become a destination store for residents in Hinds, Rankin and Madison Counties and beyond who drive to the store to purchase Japanese Waygu beef, raised on his father’s cattle farm in north Louisiana. The store also carries Prime Angus beef, and Raines works with local farmers to source other proteins. The shop sells a variety of packaged made-in-Mississippi products as well, ranging from stone ground grits to seasonings and sauces.
With business going well at his butcher shop, Raines set his sights on opening a restaurant down the street. Dave’s Triple B, celebrating barbeque, beer and blues, opened in 2018. Last year, it seemed a natural for Raines to open Raines Cellers next to Flora Butcher. Raines can recommend wines for customers purchasing steaks at the butcher shop and they can go next door to buy it.
Post-Covid, Raines decided to pull the plug on Dave’s Triple B and start the supper club concept. He had heard about other popular supper clubs, including the long-running Delta Supper Club, and he liked the idea. While he did a great job with it, barbeque just wasn’t his thing. With The Flora Supper Club, he can draw on his training, experience and talent to create memorable meals for people who enjoy a true culinary experience.
For more information on The Flora Supper Club, visit their Facebook page where you can find a schedule of upcoming events.