Curiosity Club
Curiosity Club's first cohort at The Cloud Room in Seattle after their second dinner on February 21, 2019. From left, back row: Sofia Locklear, KUOW producer Kristin Leong, Mellina White Cusack, Jin Park, Sharlese Metcalf, KUOW executive producer Ross Reynolds, KUOW reporter Kate Walers, James Miles. Front row, from left: Amanda Carter Gomes, Erik Molano, Shin Yu Pai, Jennifer Hegeman. 
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Curiosity Club's first cohort at The Cloud Room in Seattle after their second dinner on February 21, 2019. From left, back row: Sofia Locklear, KUOW producer Kristin Leong, Mellina White Cusack, Jin Park, Sharlese Metcalf, KUOW executive producer Ross Reynolds, KUOW reporter Kate Walers, James Miles. Front row, from left: Amanda Carter Gomes, Erik Molano, Shin Yu Pai, Jennifer Hegeman.
Credit: Noe Banuelos

An upbeat family reunion: Jennifer Hegeman reflects on her second Curiosity Club dinner

KUOW's nerdy supper club is thawing the Seattle Freeze one dinner party at a time.

This year KUOW is trying a new experiment called Curiosity Club. The question at the heart of this project: Can great food and surprising stories transform a group of strangers into a community?

In February, Curiosity Club's first cohort shared their second meal together. They were joined by KUOW executive producer Ross Reynolds, reporter Kate Walters and producer Kristin Leong. They gathered at The Cloud Room on Capitol Hill and Plum Bistro provided the fare.

Curiosity Club member Jennifer Hegeman reflects on the Club's second dinner.

As the dining room filled at the start of our second Curiosity Club dinner, the atmosphere was like that of an upbeat family reunion—with cheerful greetings, lots of smiling, and big hugs. This was all pretty amazing considering that most of these people had only met for the first time a month ago over one two-hour meal. I wondered to myself: How did all these very different strangers suddenly become such good friends? And then it dawned on me that I was watching the blossoming of a community.

And the blossoming of this community was intentional. KUOW producer Kristin Leong started Curiosity Club with a guiding question in mind: Can surprising stories and great food transform a group of strangers into a community?

Well, after two dinners featuring great food and a number of surprising stories, the short answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes.’

And what a fascinating community it is. Most of us, in our day-to-day lives, tend to flock with like-minded birds. In contrast, Curiosity Club members come from very different walks of life and diverse backgrounds—even different countries—with each bringing not only divergent perspectives, but a wealth of surprising stories.

Club members shared many such stories in response to the five features selected for this second dinner. Since the format for this dinner was a full-table conversation rather than the more intimate one-on-one conversations of the first dinner, this time we each got to hear from many different voices.

For instance, in response to the KUOW RadioActive podcast where Diego Villarroel told the touching story about his grandma’s first kiss taking place in a Chilean prison, many Club members shared equally poignant stories about asking their grandparents to share stories—with often surprising results.

And of course the more voices one hears, the more diverse the perspectives. In this context, it was really cool having Ross Reynolds and Kate Walters, KUOW reporters who produced two of the stories we were discussing that night, there to join the discussion and hear these different points of view.

As one would hope from a curious group, Club members were not shy in engaging the reporters: asking questions, offering insights, and generally coming at the story from a different perspective than one might have heard, or even considered, on the podcasts. With reporters present, these dinners are even more valuable, as the public radio personalities who are the voices of our community can hear from the diverse people who are living in the communities they're reporting on.

Once again, thanks to those who are making all this happen: The Cloud Room for the great venue, Plum Bistro for the amazing menu, and Kristin Leong and KUOW for bringing it all together.


Jennifer Hegeman is a dog owner and Navy veteran. She works as a teacher-librarian at a suburban public high school, where she has taught for 29 years. However, for the first 23 of those years Jenny Hegeman was Mr. Hegeman. In 2014, Jenny transitioned from male to female. Today, Jenny identifies as transsexual. She describes her transition as “an arduous yet magical journey causing a complete metamorphosis of Self.”

Jennifer Hegeman (foreground) scooping up olives at The Cloud Room in Seattle during KUOW's first Curiosity Club dinner on January 17, 2019.
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Jennifer Hegeman (foreground) scooping up olives at The Cloud Room in Seattle during KUOW's first Curiosity Club dinner on January 17, 2019.
Credit: Erik Molano

Read Jenny's reflection on Curiosity Club's first dinner here: Salon meets nerdy supper club. KUOW kicks off Curiosity Club.


Read fellow Curiosity Club member Mellina White Cusack's take on the Club's second dinner here: She’s a queer, conservative, ex-Jehovah’s Witness. When she comes to dinner, controversy sparks