Since 2003 the Spicy Dinner Group has brought men of all ages, professions and life experiences together each month, to socialize over a delicious meal.
Last month, 80 Spicy Diners celebrated the group’s 5th anniversary in style at the equally stylish home of Logan and Don Demke-Brueck, surrounded by appetizers, vegetable dishes, desserts and, of course, some fabulous wines. And, of course, a raffle featuring prizes from local merchants and past dinner coordinators. An original member and dinner coordinator for the past four years, Logan met his partner, Don, at a Spicy Dinner. He explained the group’s history as he grilled hamburgers with member Dave Robison.
The group began five years ago, he said, when a group of gay men met at an “Invenio” weekend conference, the name for the previous incarnation of Salt Lake City’s Gay Men’s Health Summit, and decided to get lunch together during a break in programming.
So how did a simple lunch at a conference turn into a spicy dinner?
“The thing we had in common was that we all liked spicy food, so that was how the name evolved,” said Logan. “By the third dinner, folks were bringing food that we couldn’t eat, as it was too spicy.”
Although the dinners have cooled down a little, the group’s membership criteria haven’t changed much.
“We debated opening the group to women and it was about fifty-fifty for doing so, but with guidance from the Pride Center, they recommended just leaving it for men, as there were not many exclusive, men-only groups in Salt Lake City,” explained Logan. The benefits of having a male-only membership, he added, make the dinner group a safe and supportive haven for questioning and recently out men to find friendship and support.
“We’ve become a ‘reach out’ group for new men coming out, as Jerry Buie from Pride Counseling, George Limberakis from Associated Counseling Services, and many support groups throughout the area, recommend new and questioning men to attend a dinner and get to know some members of the community,” said Logan.
In January, Kelly Albrecht took over from Logan as dinner coordinator. A member of five years standing, Albrecht arranges the location of the dinner each month and encourages new diners to join in. He also keeps an email list of approximately 350 member names which he uses to announce each dinner’s location and remind diners where to go a week before each event.
As Albrecht explains it, each Spicy Dinner works like this: the host for the evening chooses the theme for the night (such as the Asian dinner Albrecht said he once held at his home). Members then bring food to match the theme, including appetizers, main dishes, alcohol and desserts.
Although Albrecht admitted that finding hosts can be a challenge, and guessing how many people will attend is impossible (“A couple of times, it was a dessert party,” he says), the group is nonetheless popular with men from all over Northern Utah.
“We have had hosts in Bountiful a couple of times and have members as far away as Provo and Layton,” Albrecht said.
The dinning group also gives back to the community. Every January Spicy Dinner holds its annual “I’ve Had a Real Shitty Christmas” fundraiser where participants bring toilet paper to donate to the Utah AIDS Foundation. Past themes for this fundraiser have included Mardi Gras and pool parties.
Spicy Dinner is held on the third Saturday of each month from 7:00—10:00 p.m. The group’s next dinner is scheduled for Nov. 15. For more information email [email protected]