It's Craig Thornton’s private Wolvesmouth dinners in a loft downtown, says Dana Goodyear in Toques From Underground in this week's New Yorker. The top:
For the past two years, in a loft apartment in downtown Los Angeles, Craig Thornton has been conducting an experiment in the conventions of high-end American dining. Several nights a week, a group of sixteen strangers gather around his dining-room table to eat delicacies he has handpicked and prepared for them, from a meticulously considered menu over which they have no say. It is the toughest reservation in the city: when he announces a dinner, hundreds of people typically respond. The group is selected with an eye toward occupational balance—all lawyers, a party foul that was recently avoided thanks to Google, would have been too monochrome—and, when possible, democracy. Your dinner companion might be a former U.F.C. heavyweight champion; the chef Ludo Lefebvre; a Food Network obsessive for whom any meal is an opportunity to talk about a different meal; or a kid who saved his money and drove four hours from Fresno to be there. At the end, you place a “donation”—whatever you think the meal was worth—in a desiccated crocodile head that sits in the middle of the table. Most people pay around ninety dollars; after buying the ingredients and paying a small crew, Thornton usually breaks even. The experiment is called Wolvesmouth, the loft Wolvesden; Thornton is the Wolf. “I grew up in a survival atmosphere,” he says. “I like that aggressiveness. And I like that it’s a shy animal that avoids confrontation.”
Thornton is thirty and skinny, five feet nine, with a lean, carved face and the playful, semi-wild bearing of a stray animal that half-remembers life at the hearth. People of an older generation adopt him. Three women consider themselves to be his mother; two men—neither one his father—call him son. Lost boys flock to him; at any given time, there are a couple of them camping on his floor, in tents and on bedrolls.
Thornton doesn’t drink, smoke, or often sleep, and he once lost fifteen pounds driving across the country because he couldn’t bring himself to eat road food.
Photo on New Yorker website: Jessica Craig-Martin