Speak As You Eat is a series of not-for-profit dinner events curated collaboratively by Paolo Arlotta (Kinfolk chef, former Vue de Monde chef) and his talented friends. There are five dinners between April and June, each one hosted by a special guest including a jazz singer, a life coach, a sustainability consultant, an architect, a filmmaker and an actress. Each presents his or her own project, art or ideas while guests enjoy a five-course, vegetarian, fine-dining meal prepared by Paolo and a guest chef.

“For me, there are other important things in life (besides food), like culture and art, and I thought I can bring together the power of food and art”, Paolo says.

The idea is to create an intimate dinner that encourages discussion. “The beautiful thing about food is it breaks the ice between people and brings them together.”

Guests are seated with around 20 strangers at a long, communal, wooden table. There is no tablecloth, only pottery plates, recycled serviettes, op-shop cutlery and some flowers. It may seem like a humble dinner party, but the menu is exceptional.

Every Speak As You Eat dinner menu is brand new and dependent on what fresh produce is in season and available at local markets. Paolo and his guest chefs split the menu into two dishes each and collaborate on the canapés. Everything on offer is vegetarian, and includes unexpected dishes with a twist, such as tomato ‘steak’ tartare and avocado ‘magnum’ with smoked nuts.

In the break between the third course and dessert, the night’s guest speaker will present their expertise in the form of a speech or live performance. The speaker won’t be the only one doing the talking, as the guest chef will come to the table to greet guests and introduce each dish throughout the dinner. Professional floor staff will shed light on the matching wines.

Convinced that, “The idea of sharing what we have as much as possible” is important, Paolo supports small suppliers by sourcing local ingredients when possible. Before the dinner starts, guests will receive a paper envelope containing a welcome message and a note acknowledging the origins and stories of each ingredient of the dinner.

As an experienced fine-dining chef with a fundamental understanding of what vegetarian cuisine is all about, Paolo is happy with where his career path is leading him. “It was important for me to come from Vue de Monde to here (Kinfolk),” he says. “Of course, I really enjoyed fine-dining cooking when I was there, it was fantastic, but I was looking for something more meaningful.”

Quick to point out that he couldn't have put the concept together on his own, Paolo mentions his friend Astrid Luglio, an industrial designer who helped develop the initial concepts, designed the flyers and even offered virtual support for the project from Norway and Italy where she is currently based. “Bringing in other chefs is also important to me because they bring inspiration and motivation to my cooking,” Paolo says. All guest chefs, speakers, kitchen and floor staff are volunteers.

All profits from Speak As You Eat dinners will support local and overseas charities.

Speak As You Eat may be different from usual degustation dinners, but definitely doesn’t make the experience any less valuable. Through good food and inspiring talks, it reminds us of the simple ideas of sharing and giving that are often forgotten.

Each dinner event is $75, and $25 for matching wines. The next dinner is on April 8. Tickets are available here.

Dinner details are subject to change, please see updates here.

Dinner 1: May 6 – Speaker: Michael Lutman, Melbourne filmmaker, Guest Chef: Travis Goodlet (head chef of The Courthouse Hotel, former head chef at Papa Goose)

Dinner 2: June 3 – Zvi Belling (Architect and jazz musician), Guest Chef: Stefano Rosi (chef at Hawthorn Common, former Vue de Monde chef)

Dinner 3: July – Speaker: Cece Ojany, accredited life coach and founder of The Main Protagonist, Guest Chef: Clinton McIver (head chef of Champions Grill Bistro at Clayton Bowling Club, former Vue de Monde Head Chef)

Dinner 4: July – Speaker: Miguel Angel Oyarbide (Sustainability Consultant), Guest Chef: Christy Tania (Head Chef at Om Nom with expertise in the French art of pastry)

Dinner 5: Tariro Mavondo (actress, performer). Guest Chef: Francesco Castellana (Date TBC)