My friend Aron Habiger got into cooking professionally for some of the same reasons I got into photographing food—to mark the ritual of gathering loved ones around the table for a meal.

Adored by diners in both Orange County and Los Angeles, Chef Aron was most recently the chef de cuisine of Petit Trois in Hollywood and, before that, of The North Left in Santa Ana. Then in 2016, he decided that his day-to-day schedule in restaurant kitchens was pulling him farther and farther from what he loved—cooking for small groups of family and friends.

That’s when he started On the Lam, a series of dinners Aron hosts with collaborator (and cousin!) Lawrence of the bespoke apron company Benson and Sons. For each On the Lam menu, Aron takes inspiration from the Pacific Northwest, where he grew up, adapting different courses for an ever-changing backdrop. I have followed On the Lam since Aron and Lawrence dreamed it up, so when the series made an appearance back in Orange County on December 8, I wanted to be there to capture it.

As the name suggests, On the Lam has popped up from Seattle to Los Angeles, but now the series has a new home in Downtown Santa Ana. The DTSA location remains a secret until guests purchase tickets, adding a layer of mystique that befits the hidden venue. Down a candlelit staircase, the lucky eighteen who reserved a seat find their place around one live-edge wooden table made by local artisan Jon Garcia of GRAINHAUS. The walls are exposed brick, with an open kitchen and bar facing the intimately lit dining room.

At the first of the DTSA dinners on December 8, Aron drew on his experience—both personal and professional—to serve five courses of sultry, wintery fare. From a charred Caesar with roasted garlic dressing, to a French omelette with Boursin black pepper cheese and chives (eighteen of which were plated perfectly—still soft in the middle—at the same time!), to the vanilla ricotta and bleu cheese dessert with persimmon and sugar-cured egg yolk, each course matched the seductive tone of the space and the darkness of the December night. Below are a few highlights from the first On the Lam dinner in DTSA.

More On the Lam dinners are scheduled for 2017, the next of which will be held on Wednesday, January 11th with Aron’s close friends, Chef Joshua Han and Pastry Chef Ashley Guzman. To learn more, and to reserve tickets, click here. And be sure to follow Aron @a_ronthechef, Lawrence @bensonandsons, and @cookingonthelam on Instagram for future updates.

{Follow Anne Watson Photography on Facebook and on Twitter/Instagram @annewatsonphoto.}