A North Brooklyn local, Chef Luis Ramirez, is an architect by trade, but a self-proclaimed chef at heart who started a supper club called Off the Record in May 2023.
Off the Record’s supper club dinners include five courses of Colombian, Spanish, or Southeast Asian-inspired dishes, plus a specialty cocktail, around a table of eight to ten strangers in Ramirez’s Williamsburg apartment. Off the Record also offers private events in other locations around the neighborhood.
As a student, one of Ramirez’s professors told him that the class was going out to eat together because “when you eat together, you become better,” an idea that stuck with him and eventually led to the creation of a supper club of strangers.
Chef Luis Ramirez spoke with Greenpointers about the supper club, its flavorful menus, his Colombian heritage, and even his pet cat.
Greenpointers: Tell us about yourself. Have you always wanted to be a chef?
Chef Luis Ramirez: I was born in Florida and have lived in Brooklyn for about ten years. I came here to get my master’s at Pratt in architecture. I was in Florida until I was nine and then moved to Colombia for five years. My mom didn’t want us to completely lose our Colombian culture and she wanted us to practice Spanish, so we moved.
Architecture is my passion, as well as community building. I have always dabbled in cooking mostly through dinner parties with friends. I was always the host. It was about having fun with friends.
In Colombia, there are triple the amount of holidays in a year as there are here. Culturally, it’s ingrained in me to understand work is important, but having that time to be with friends and family is important, too.
Greenpointers: What made you start Off the Record? How did you come up with the idea?
Chef Luis Ramirez: I recently got married and started cooking for my wife. She’s the one who said we should make this into a business. We started setting up dinner parties with friends, and little by little, it has gotten to where it is now.
Greenpointers: What can guests expect during a social supper club?
Chef Luis Ramirez: During the social supper clubs, you are having dinner with strangers. You can buy one ticket or up to three tickets, and then you meet the other guests at the dinner. Everyone has an envelope with their name, the menu, and questions printed on the menu. So, there are assigned seats, but placed at random.
The social supper club dinners are at my apartment. We give the address when they book. It’s a modern apartment, but, it feels personal and private. You can see some photos on my website. The dinners last three hours, but if you want to continue the night, there are nice bars and lounges nearby.
I also want to mention my security guard cat who lives here. He’s gentle and loves people. He is not interactive during the dinners but might pop his head in, so we let people with allergies know. The apartment is pristine, we don’t have cat hairs.
During the dinners, I want people to enjoy the food, but also to have a good time and meet new people. On top of the enjoyment, I want them to think the food is amazing and notice how it is plated.
For fun, we play board games and answer questions. We even have a karaoke machine.
Greenpointers: You guys sound fun!
Chef Luis Ramirez: My wife and I love karaoke and love to goof off.
Greenpointers: You mentioned that there are questions printed on the menu. You must get questions about those questions…
Chef Luis Ramirez: I have six different questions. The guests essentially ask and answer their questions in front of the table. It prompts a nice conversation.
One example asks if you could travel back in time to an event, where would you go and why.
Another question asks to share an interesting childhood memory with the group. Even if you came with friends and know each other, you might not know that particular story.
Greenpointers: Speaking of groups of friends, tell us more about private events.
Chef Luis Ramirez: I offer different scenarios to be flexible with people. Many seem interested in private events, so I offer the opportunity to book my place without strangers.
Last week, I had a birthday event at my apartment with seven people, all friends. But, the format is still similar to the social supper clubs with a five-course meal, a specialty cocktail, and questions.
I can go to someone else’s home or a rented space. One of my customers was celebrating her husband’s 30th birthday and rented a space called the Love Shack in Bushwick. I went there and prepared a three-hour meal for 30 people. It was still five courses, but for two courses we did family style.
They chose the Spanish menu, and we received a lot of compliments on the Spanish tortilla.
We also helped with a bit of clean up. Sometimes, we even do decor. We usually go to the space a few hours before the event to prep.
Greenpointers: Let’s get into the food. You offer three menus on the website: Colombian Fusion, South East Asian, and Spanish Flavored. How did you come up with the menus and do they ever change?
Chef Luis Ramirez: A lot of my inspiration comes from my Colombian background. The Latin side heavily inspires me, but I am also inspired by Asian cuisine. A lot of my dishes are Latin-Asian fusion.
Each menu is different and has a different theme. For example, I push Latin flavors in the Colombian Fusion menu.
I rotate two menus at a time for the supper clubs. Currently in rotation are the Colombian Fusion and South East Asian menus. All menus listed on the website are available for private events. And I know people have dietary restrictions. I substitute for vegetarians and allergies.
The menus change every three months. At the end of March, I will switch to another menu that I am in the process of creating. It’s a Mexican theme.
With every dinner, the menu gets a little bit better, which is nice.
Greenpointers: What do you like to cook at home when you’re not working?
Chef Luis Ramirez: I do meal prep every Sunday for my wife, and when I have time, I make breakfast. Today, I made rancheros omelettes with scallion, tomato, and olive oil. I added dried seaweed on top which gave it a saltiness.
I’ve also been making turkey meatballs. I marinate them with smoked paprika and chili powder, so they are a bit spicy. I cook them in an air fryer with avocado oil, and then drizzle honey on top, which gives them a tangy sweet flavor.
Greenpointers: As a Williamsburg local, where do you like to eat in the neighborhood?
Chef Luis Ramirez: We recently moved to Williamsburg in August, but I have been living in Brooklyn for years since I moved to New York and always went out in Williamsburg.
I like Lilia (567 Union Ave.) and a coffeeshop called Daytime (415 Graham Ave.). We usually get takeout from Mr. Bao (208 Bedford Ave.). I love the steamed buns.