This is a quick reaction to Matt Yglesias blogpost about 'underground dinner parties'... The original article that lead to Mr. Yglesias's post is here.
And he concludes: Food service is one of those weird areas where the exact same thing (cooking food for other people) is done on both a commercial and non-commercial basis, except with totally different regulatory schemes. The moral of the story here should almost certainly be that we're over-regulating commercial food production, not that we need to clamp down on underground dinner parties.
This is, I suspect, a libertarian inclination gone wrong. We can trust in a private chef, not being paid for his work, to NOT poison his friends, colleagues, buddies or contacts.
We canNOT make the same assumption about a chef or restaurant owner who is trying to make a living off feeding other people. Here, with a profit motive involved, there is a clear tension between public safety and the food quality & cost. If a for-profit chef can get away with using unsafe (and thus cheap) ingredients, he will.
The interest of the chef and the consuming public aren't nearly so strongly misaligned in the case of private parties...
Never ever trust anyone once money's involved.