Making a Connection One Bite at a Time: An Interview with Moontide Sundries

What if I told you one of the best dinner spots in town is at a stranger’s house? And what if I told you that the entire seven course menu was a surprise not to be unveiled until you sit down to the table?

Couple and dream team Will Sanders and Alex Hensleigh are the creative minds behind Moontide Sundries, a unique and thrilling new venture which is one of the best things to ever happen to Greensboro’s burgeoning culinary scene.  They are also wonderfully earnest, genuine people that truly make you feel welcome, which is no easy feat when you’re spending a few hours in the home of people you’ve never met before! Alex and Will are just as intentional with creating ambiance as they are with their menu, from carefully crafting the evening’s playlist, to showcasing local art (currently you can find paintings by Angie the Rose adorning their walls), to a little end of the meal treat that comes after dessert (no spoilers here)!

We went to one of their dinners back in February (to score a seat, send a DM on Instagram and hope it isn’t already full). You’ll show up and be greeted by a friendly face and a cozy living room that’s been thoughtfully rearranged with a long table set with linen napkins and little bouquets of fresh flowers and candles. As you and other guests start to file in you might spot a familiar face, a co-worker, or possibly an acquaintance. But chances are you’ll dine with strangers and leave a few hours later with friends. And that’s what Moontide Sundries is really all about. Bringing people together over (really amazing) food.

I still dream of the dark horse of the evening we attended, an ethereal salted caramel coconut cream pie with the most perfect crust and a cloud of earthy turmeric whipped cream. (It was everyone’s favorite.) Will and Alex are fiercely hard-working and wildly inventive, marrying seemingly unlikely cuisines and ingredients that explode with flavor. They procure the majority of their produce, meat and seafood from local farms and are always experimenting and tinkering in the kitchen. Their curiosity, passion and dedication are evident in every inspired dish, from beginning to end. And really, how often do you get to enjoy an intimate, multi-course, Michelin-star-worthy meal in the comforts of someone’s charming home? It’s an experience I highly recommend.

Q: How did each of you get into cooking?

Will: I was never interested in cooking until I met Alex. One late night after a good amount of drinking, she decided to make us arepas instead of getting a slice, or the infamous Cook-out tray, and my eyes were opened. How did something so delicious come out of her hands in such a short amount of time? I was curious and hungry. Around the same time, I started working in a restaurant in Elon, NC called The Root. I was a traveling musician at the time and needed a job whenever I wasn’t on the road. I started washing dishes and later moved to the fryer position. I was good at the job but didn’t know what the hell I was doing. After a few months of working there, the owners were trying to open a new place just across the parking lot, Tangent Eat + Bar. This is where I truly cut my teeth. I started there on the day it opened and was quickly thrown into every position in the kitchen. We sold tacos and fried rice, neither of which were made to traditional standards. Tacos filled with fried chicken, banh mi style meatballs, vegan cauliflower, all sorts of shit. And the employees were encouraged to create tacos of their own, which I took very seriously. I enjoyed the challenge of creating something interesting and tasty. Whenever I left there I had three tacos on the menu. (The Korean steak taco: thinly sliced and marinated ribeye, cucumber kimchi, kewpie mayo, and fresh jalapeños / Nashville hot chicken taco: extra spicy fried chicken, mustard, white onions, and sweet pickles / the Brussel Truffle: deep fried brussels sprouts, parmesan, pickled onions, and truffle aioli). Making weird dishes with leftovers for the kitchen crew was what I began to look forward to everyday. Seeing people’s reactions and hearing the usual “Mhmm” was like making someone dance, or hearing them sing your song. Addictive and fascinating.

Alex: I grew up helping my Mom cook. I would always start cooking with my Mom but then would end up watching football with my Dad. My sister was the one that ended up really spending time in the kitchen when we were younger. I became more of the taste tester. I observed more than anything. When I got into high school I took a cooking class and learned some baking techniques from my Uncle going through culinary school. I got completely obsessed with baking cakes. I baked about 50 of Paula Deen’s (not a fan anymore) recipes. I brought a cake to school most days to share with teachers (I was a nerd… I am a nerd). I love the precision of baking. My favorite time to bake is late at night alone (no distractions). Even though I like to bake alone, I have always loved the healing power of food. I might have not learned all of my Mom’s recipes but I did learn from her how to open your home up to someone and bring them joy through a shared meal.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to make for one another?

Will: I love to make burgers for Alex, it was also the first thing I ever cooked her. Simple but tasty, the flavor increases tenfold when a few simple techniques are put into place. And they come together quickly, which is an added bonus.

Alex: Since I am the certified dish washer I like to make one-pan dishes (however, I usually use 6 spoons every time I cook). Arepas and enchiladas are my go-to. Will is always surprised how simple they are but they always pack a flavor punch. Arepas are my favorite thing my Mom cooks and they are my favorite dish to share with others.

Q: How did you decide to start a supper club? What’s the genesis of the name “Moontide Sundries?”

A: On a plane ride back from New Mexico (a trip we took planning our upcoming wedding!), we watched a documentary on a couple that started a restaurant in their home in Chicago. We both just looked at each other and said, “that seems like fun… crazy, but fun!” So, by December 2018 we created a unique food experience that could bring people together. We had little money and time so the Supper Club was the perfect creative outlet for us.

This experience has taught us how to work together, how to improve and elevate flavors, work our asses off and have fun doing it. This shit is seriously so much fun, it allows me to be as creative as I can be, and taught me how to be okay with imperfections. I’m not gonna lie, we have had some late nights trying to execute these events and have pondered our sanity. But seeing our guests leave happy makes everything we do worth the while.

We knew we needed a name. Alex grew up at the beach and always loved and identified with the ocean. I wanted something that would reflect a changing menu and idea. The moon affects the tides, which is always changing, and Sundries means nothing in particular, which is what we do. Food that changes every time with no one focus on anything. Our food isn’t aimless, it just has no boundaries. Every time we get asked this question we seem to answer a little differently, which is how we like it. Quirky and unique, each and every time.

Q: When was your first supper club? How have things evolved since then?

A: December 16th, 2018. We used to do four courses, now we do seven. We are always working to create new dishes that we would like to eat, and our portion sizes have definitely become more reasonable. 🙂 We are now more organized, and less insane. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that our guests are completely stellar, always open to the experience and eager to try something new. We love them.

Q: What inspires you to get in the kitchen?

A: Youtube. A never-ending hunger, and my obsession with flavors and food and how it relates to the world around me, and the things it teaches me. Patience, intuition, admiration, and loving thyself. After all, food is really just fuel.

Q: Who are some of your favorite chefs and what are some of your favorite cookbooks?

Will: Matty Matheson- a cookbook, Vivian Howard- Deep Run Roots, David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook, Matt Danzer & Ann Redding at Uncle Boon’s in NYC, All of the Bon Appetit test chefs, I love those magazines and youtube videos. Youtube Channels: Maangchi, Asian At Home, Chef’s Night Out, It’s Alive with Brad, The Brothers Green

Alex: I grew up watching Ina with my sister, we used to fantasize about hosting parties in a beautiful garden like hers. I feel very fortunate to host parties in my humble home now. I love her book, Ina Garten Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust.

Q: What are three kitchen tools you couldn’t live without?

A: Microplane, fine mesh sieve, and a hand blender…. Knives of course!

Q: What does the weekend look like when you’re prepping for supper club? What are each of your roles and how do you work together?

A: It starts the week before, we go to the farmers markets and see what is available and ask the farmers what they think they’ll have next week, after that I create a menu of loose idea’s, I’ll give it to Alex and she will tell me what she likes or doesn’t, and the edits begin. Each menu has probably three iterations before we settle on one we like. Then usually Thursday or Friday I begin making some things like stocks and pickles that I will use. Then Saturday we will go to the market and get most of everything we can. We always go to the market together even though we don’t have to, it’s kind of a ritual.

As soon as we are home I begin cooking and preparing all of the things on the prep list. Alex stays on top of the to do list. She is cleaning, ironing, and finalizing the menu. She always thinks of some task to make our lives more difficult but it’s for details the guests will enjoy (like fortune cookies).

Sunday we wake up about 7 AM because there is always more to do than expected. We transform our living room into the dinning room, we create the illusion of an organized home, we finish cooking, we taste everything, we give each other lots of words of affirmation and we get excited for our guests to arrive. Alex does the flowers and candles while I finish the food. Alex polishes the silverware again… why not? Then, we wait nervously (happy nerves) for the first knock on the door.

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of hosting a supper club? The most rewarding?

Will: Probably creating the menu and planning out plating. Most things aren’t coming together until the Sunday of, so plating is something we are trying to think about but cannot actually test that much. The most rewarding part is seeing people that don’t know one another share conversation and laughter. Enjoying a meal with strangers somehow becomes everyone’s favorite part, and mine too. Lots of people have made great connections through this, and we have met so so many wonderful people from Greensboro. We are proud that we create a few hours in a week where people can be present in a moment, and it is a time where we are our most focused and ourselves.

Q: What is something that surprised you about starting a supper club out of your own home?

A: It is a fuck ton of work at first but with each dinner you learn so much. It gets easier, then we challenge ourselves (working with an ingredient we do not know, etc.). But with the effort, we get to see how many people seem to crave an intimate way of socializing, it is more people than we expected!

Q: Favorite spots in Greensboro?

A: Machete, Pho Hien Vuong, Lao (downtown), El Camino Real, the Korean Restaurant in the Super G parking lot.

Q: What can we find in your fridge?

A: Parmigiano reggiano, hummus, fish sauce, 5-6 different hot sauce, Bread Service Bread, eggs

Q: What dish are you most proud of?

A: KW Homestead’s duck breast with duck gravy, lemon foam, and Haw River king oyster mushroom. It was perfect. We served it in Virginia Beach.

I want to work on my ravioli, I always have to make extra. I typically have one or two that pop when they are being boiled.

Q: What’s next for Moontide Sundries?

A: More dinners. We are in the process of opening a food trailer. We want to be able to bring the experience of an intimate meal to other locations. Our goal is to bring the vibe we have curated in our home out into the world. We are teaching a cooking class in the Edible Schoolyard at the Greensboro Children’s Museum July 20th. We have a lot of dreams about how Moontide can help connect people to one another. For now, we will be making our connection official at our wedding September 1st, 2019 in Taos, New Mexico.

Also, we’re excited to be teaching a cooking class at the Edible Schoolyard on 7/20!

3rd Degree

Reading: Made to Stick, by Chip & Dan Heath

Watching: Youtube, constantly. She’s Gotta Have It (Netflix)

Listening to: Frank Ocean, Mac Demarco, Kurt Vile, Fela Kuti, The Grateful Dead, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Jive Mother Mary

A final thought from Will and Alex…..

If you are thinking about doing a Supper Club from your home, do it! Start today, better yet, start yesterday. We will be your first guests. Opening your home is like opening yourself up. You will learn so much.

For more information on the latest dinner plans and other news, follow along on Instagram, @moontidesundries.

Cover photo by Mia Howle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s