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VOL. 131 | NO. 154 | Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Paradox Catering Starting New Mystery Dining Experience

By Andy Meek

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Chef Jimmy Gentry of Paradox Catering & Consulting set out to open a restaurant. He built a catering and consulting business, instead – and what he’s planning next is a mystery dining experience.

Paradox Catering & Consulting is launching a concept that will involve dining at mystery locations. Pictured are Jessica Lambert and co-owners Alia Hogan and Jimmy Gentry.


Paradox later this month is set to launch Paradox Underground, what the company describes as a kind of “culinary speakeasy.” Participants will pay to show up at a secret, obscure location in the city – a different spot each time – where Gentry and his team will prepare a five-course meal, paired by a sommelier with wine, craft cocktails, or beer.

The first two events will take place on Aug. 26 and Nov. 5.

The mystery is one of the meals’ ingredients. The location of each event will be undisclosed until 48 hours before the event, at which time the ticket holders will get an email or text with all the final details.

“My business partner and I, along with our operations manager, we all threw in different ideas to make this happen, but for me, I just wanted a chance to do what I truly love,” said Gentry, who trained at the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C.

He went on to cut his teeth in key positions at culinary institutions like Erling Jensen: The Restaurant, and as an instructor at L’Ecole Culinaire.

He’d originally been moving forward with plans to try to launch a Paradox-branded brick-and-mortar restaurant back at the height of the Great Recession, before the economic slump brought that plan to a halt. The venture had already started taking catering gigs, though, so that side of the business moved forward.

Fast forward to 2016, and now that the catering business has hit its stride, Gentry said he’d begun to think again about a restaurant space. Amid those considerations, he hit upon an idea that led to what would become the Underground event concept.

Paradox is offering single tickets for the Aug. 26 event for $150 at the Paradox website, www.paradoxcuisine.com. For $100, participants sign up for a kind of membership that Gentry said gives them “first dibs” on spots at any dinner.

He wanted to offer the two options to cater to diners who know they want to commit to multiple events as well as to diners who might want to just show up or make a special occasion of one of the dinners. The latter he’s calling the “one night stand” tier.

“This is instead of us opening a traditional restaurant,” said Paradox co-owner Alia Hogan. “Every time you dine with us, you can experience something new, somewhere new. We want it to be exciting, and the food is always going to be different.”

While praising Memphis as a town with a bevy of delights for foodies – an abundant restaurant scene that he says has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years – Gentry said it’s also easy for some people to get in a rut. They might settle into a routine of only visiting a few restaurants regularly.

“The great thing about Underground – it’s not going to be the same place, you’re not going to sit at the same table or see the same food over and over again,” Gentry said.

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