Alumni

Portrait

When Chris Powell, ’05, and Meredith Clarke Powell, ’06, first met at Richmond, they had little in common. Chris admits to being a bit of a partier, while Meredith was more academically driven. Yet, they somehow ended up on a first date and, like a lot of first dates, they went to dinner. Over Mongolian barbecue at Graywolf Grill, they experienced a simple truth about breaking bread together that has tied them to each other ever since.

“The value of slowing down and sitting with other people is really what’s so precious about sharing food with other people,” Meredith said. She describes the most depressing food experience as when people physically sit together but are absorbed by their phones.

“Usually, there doesn’t have to be a whole lot of weight or baggage to the act of sharing a meal together,” Chris said. “It should be trying to let your guard down — just enjoy and be together.”

The couple — now married — took this insight and ran with it as their relationship developed, in everything from home-cooked meals in their tiny Boston apartment to dinner at a top-50 restaurant in Sweden. In 2015, they started what they called the Orange Door Supper Club, inviting four friends into their home for a meal and asking them to invite four people they didn’t know.

Twenty-two supper club dinners later, Chris and Meredith left their day jobs — she in interior design, he as a consultant for a nonprofit — to focus on developing Orange Door Hospitality, an umbrella business and catering company.

Whether it’s tradition, taste, or the simple fact that eating is something everyone has in common, the Powells say food brings togetherness like nothing else.

“We had received so much good feedback from the supper club about having friends and family in the comfort of your home with good food, good music, and a relaxed atmosphere,” Meredith said. “People really loved doing this in our house, so we wanted to bring this to other people’s homes.”

Even as Orange Door Hospitality expanded their food careers, their love of cooking together hasn’t dissipated. The couple is opening Orange Door Kitchen, a commercial kitchen and event space, in May. They hope to create a setting for small food businesses, chefs, mixologists, culinary instructors, and food enthusiasts to create a thriving culinary community in eastern Massachusetts.

“Food is almost secondary to the experience,” Chris said as he described Orange Door Hospitality’s space while it was still being remodeled. “Though good food is important, [people] are looking for something different than just going out, ordering something off a menu, and then leaving.”

With a demonstration kitchen, room for pop-up events and cooking classes, and a licensed commercial kitchen, the new facility will be able to support 15 to 20 food entrepreneurs looking to grow out of their home kitchens and expand their businesses.

“There’s a real need that we discovered firsthand,” Meredith said. “If you can’t find space to rent, then you’re looking for space to build on your own, and that’s a huge financial hurdle for a small food business.”

Meredith and Chris’s menus are influenced by everything from colors to poems, ingredients to TV shows. Each dining experience at Orange Door Kitchen will be an opportunity to try something new. They plan to serve an 11-course feast inspired by their meal at that restaurant in Sweden for the first dinner served in the new space.

And with meals like that, who’d want a phone at the table?