Dining at Trevor Shankman’s Maria feels like coming home

A night at the sold-out Kennesaw supper club

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Trevor Shankman Maria
Trevor Shankman plates dishes at his supper club, Maria.

Photograph by Andy Leverett

Going out on a Friday night can be exhausting. Often, it comes with Ubering to a restaurant with fake plants and incandescent light bulbs dangling from the ceiling, where vibes come before food, and the bill leaves us calculating next month’s rent. It’s all too much. Don’t we, strapped in our highest heels and plucked for the ‘gram, just want to go home?

Dining out is no longer a thoughtless obligation. It can be an experience, a work of art, a show with a story that deserves our full attention. This is why underground supper clubs are becoming popular in the metro area. One of them is Maria, by 21-year-old chef Trevor Shankman. It is so popular that it is sold out through mid-May, and here’s why.

Trevor Shankman Maria

Photograph by Andy Leverett

The dinner takes place at his late grandmother’s house, to whom the menu is dedicated, and the Kennesaw address is only shared with diners. As the top of Kennesaw Mountain peeks above the road, it doesn’t feel like you’re going out. Rather, it feels like you’re heading to grandma’s.

“I feel like I owe a lot to her, and I really wanted to do something way over the top to show her that she meant a lot to me,” says Shankman of his grandmother, Maria Delgado, who passed away last June.

Every Friday and Saturday, Shankman borrows the home from his grandfather and seats 8 to 12 people in the dining room for dinner. There is no wait staff, no maître de, no valet. It’s a home. In a picture frame ladder in the living room, there’s Shankman as a child on a beach, his family filing close beside him, his grandparents smiling. In the kitchen, baby pictures, new and old, are tacked on a board not far from the stove. Shankman cooks with intention under the veil of these pictures, dotting and wiping armies of identical plates. He is dressed in a chef’s jacket and apron, gripping a long Japanese knife, cutting clean edges on sous vide meats.

Trevor Shankman Maria
Shankman plates dishes during a Maria dinner

Photograph by Andy Leverett

Each time the doorbell rings, Shankman sets down his utensils and welcomes his diners warmly. He directs you to your seat before heading back to his workstation, head hanging low over his plates. The lights are dim, and the dinner theater begins with Shankman placing one gorgeous plate after the next in front of you, paired with a story from his childhood spent with his grandmother.

He shares his inspiration behind the burnt onion sauce as his grandmother yelling that something was burning on the stove. He recalls fishing cookies out of a glass of milk, his favorite treat, as the inspiration behind a finale frozen white chocolate dessert. “Aya’s famous vegetable soup!” is a deconstructed interpretation, like fragmented memories we don’t have any pictures of.

Trevor Shankman Maria

Photograph by Andy Leverett

It is at this moment you realize why you came here. You wanted to feel connected, you wanted a story that reminds you of your own, and you wanted food with meaning and finesse. It’s a work of art, and Shankman is the artist with pure intentions. Hearing stories of his Aya, you mourn, with warmth, your own childhood. Why you came is because you wanted, ever so badly, to feel at home.

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