Diners are enjoying pop-up dinners around the globe, each with its own unique twist. In general, they are one-off events or temporary locations where creative chefs offer intriguing, adventurous dishes, often in quirky venues. Chefs sometimes participate in them to figure out what might make a successful regular item on the menu.
Here are just a couple of comments about pop-up dinners from around the web:
- “Pop up restaurants are the chef equivalent of a summer romance—a short-term thing where neither party judges or forms an emotional bond, but it’s good fun while it lasts.” (com)
- “Limited-edition restaurants, elite chef ‘residencies,’ and other one-night-only dining experiences have become the fastest-moving craze in food.” (com)
- “Millennials and Generation Z are flocking to pop- ups, insuring they don’t miss out on anything Instagram worthy.” (com)
History of Pop-Up Restaurants
According to Google, the term “pop-up restaurant” became common in search queries in 2014. (Although relatively new, the pop-up concept did exist before people began searching on that exact phrase.)
One of the earliest examples surfaced in 2007 when temporary underground restaurants would appear in the Los Angeles, with menus created by Chef Ludo Lefebvre, and then disappear. All seemed random.
Since then, it’s more typical for clarity to exist around the specifics of the event. Here are three of the more unusual ones.
Muru Pops Down
For two weeks in 2012, Muru Pops Down flipped the concept upside down, serving as a pop-up restaurant that was located 262 feet underground in the Tytyri Mine Museum. The dinners sold out at a price tag of $161 in US dollars, and that included transportation down into the museum (helmets provided and required as diners navigated their way to the pop-up, optional while they ate). It also included the admission fee to the limestone-themed museum.
The Cube by Electrolux
Diners who preferred to go up, rather than down, would have been intrigued by a modernist dining room that was available on top of well-known European locations. In 2012, this pop-up restaurant was located on top of London’s Royal Festival Hall (six months), Stockholm’s Royal Opera House (four months), Milan’s Piazza del Duomo (four months), and Brussel’s Parc du Cinquantenaire (three months) before the concept was retired.
3,876m: Between Knife and Fork
The number of 3,876 was chosen because it represented the number of miles between the two chefs who collaborated on a culinary project from August 20 through September 7, 2014. They met at the “seamline that separates East and West Jerusalem . . . a cultural meeting point in which food is only part of the story.”
The pop-up took place in a “stunning, quirky building on Mount Zion,” described as being just moments from the “site of the last supper, King David’s tomb, the village of Silwan, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.” The two chefs, Kamel Hashlamon and Assaf Granit—along with Hedai Offaim, a culinary expert—discussed the food and people from thousands of years of Jerusalem history.
Here’s how the event was described: “The fiery Jerusalem broth, the harsh ingredients that have been cast into this blisteringly hot concoction and the bitterness of the city’s ongoing reality could ruin any dish. We are not trying to claim that we are cooking up peace or even a new Middle Eastern cuisine. What we want to do is to offer people a place in which they can sit together, eat something, drink something, and dream.”
Prediction About This Dining Out Trend
In 2018, the National Restaurant Association surveyed nearly 700 chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation, and they’ve named pop-ups as one of the top trends for the future of the industry.
Challenges can include getting the word out and, if the pop-up dinner is being held in a non-traditional location that doesn’t have what the chef would normally need in a kitchen, logistics can be difficult.
Pop-Up Dinners at the Culinary Vegetable Institute
Whether you’ve been to a pop-up dinner at the Culinary Vegetable Institute—or whether you haven’t—we’d like to invite you to consider attending. We offer unique events where guest chefs of renown come to the CVI to cook culinary masterpieces in our 1,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art, two-story kitchen designed by Mark Stech-Novak—and to revel in our culinary library, root cellar, wine cellar, and experimental vegetable, forest and herb gardens.
When one of the CVI chefs, Tristan Acevedo, first walked through the doors of our unique culinary center, he noted how the CVI allows one-of-a-kind expressive experimentation, permission to NOT become boxed in, and the luxurious opportunity to really pause and consider all the nuances of an ingredient or process.
In other words, the perfect place for a pop-up.
Past Pop-Ups at the CVI
If you’ve ever heard the phrase that past performance isn’t an indicator of the future, know that it’s both true—and false—about dinner events at the CVI. It’s true, in a good way, because it means that CVI chefs and guest chefs are continually experimenting and offering up unique culinary adventures for diners.
It’s also not true, because the quality of our past pop-ups are very much an indicator of the brilliant dishes and menus that chefs will offer at the CVI in the future.
Now, here are examples of the incredible pop-ups provided by CVI guest chefs in recent years—and then we’ll offer details for an upcoming one.
Dirt Candy’s Chef Amanda Cohen
In the summer of 2016, Chef Amanda Cohen demonstrated her playful mastery of the plant, creative interpretations that were uniquely hers. Specialties of hers include tomato tarts, mushroom mousse, pea soup, carrot sliders – and, of course, her renowned popcorn pudding.
You might remember Chef Amanda on Iron Chef America, where she was the first vegetarian chef on the show. The secret ingredient was broccoli.
When asked which Chef’s Garden vegetable was her favorite, she said she had no specific produce, but loves the baby versions. “They are teeny, tiny, and so cute that you want to snuggle up with them,” she said, adding that she imagines the miniature vegetables being harvested by adorable, magical elves.
Dirt Candy was the first vegetarian restaurant in 17 years to receive two stars from the New York Times. She has won awards from Gourmet Magazine, the Village Voice and more. Michelin Guide has recognized her five years in a row—and she created a fabulous meal at the CVI.
Elaia’s Chef Ben Grupe
Chef Ben Grupe, in 2016, served as American team captain for the Culinary Olympics, leading Team USA to three gold medals. In 2017, he competed in the American tryouts for Bocuse d’Or, the most prestigious culinary competition in the world. Chef Ben finished second. In the summer of 2018, he created an experience for CVI diners that allowed them to celebrate food cultures throughout the world, while offering up a tribute to the bountiful Midwest.
He is the executive chef of the celebrated Elaia & Olio Restaurants in St. Louis, with his style being an homage to classical technique and tradition. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch awarded Elaia four stars out of four, and this restaurant has repeatedly been ranked number two in restaurant critic Ian Froeb’s annual “The 100 Best Restaurants in St. Louis.” AAA gives Elaia four diamonds, making Chef Ben a master of gold and diamonds, prestigious silver—and stunning pop-up dinners.
Totally ‘80s with Andrew Friedman
This summer, Andrew Friedman, author of Chefs, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits, and Wanderers Created a New American Profession, served as the star attraction at a CVI pop-up. His book transported readers back in time to witness the remarkable evolution of the American restaurant chef in the 1970s and 1980s.
He explores Bay area restaurants in the politically charged Berkeley backdrop, the historically underrated Los Angeles scene, clash of cultures in New York City, and American game changers. He shares the stories of young cooks who went on to become household names, bringing to life their struggles, their cliques, and their restaurants. Friedman is also the host of Andrew Talks to Chefs, where he chats with some of the world’s best-known chefs.
At the June pop-up dinner at the CVI, Chef David Waltuck, a multi-James Beard Award winner, provided unforgettable dishes, while Claudia Fleming created straightforward, unpretentious desserts, matching contrasting textures, flavors and temperatures to achieve perfect results.
The Black Pig’s Chef Michael Nowak
Before we describe this pop-up, we’ll note that many to most of ours take place inside a rustic yet elegant 11,000-square-foot facility built of locally quarried limestone, pine and cedar exterior with a wild cherry, black walnut, tulip poplar, oak and ash interior that sits on approximately 100 acres of fertile land. The dining room is 1,426 square feet with 22-foot ceilings, capable of seating 90.
Not all pop-ups at CVI, though, occur indoors.
In 2018, diners got to marvel at the ultimate summer cookout, while Chef Michael Nowak conjured up smoke and flame to prepare fresh vegetables from the farm, along with a whole roasted pig. Cooking methods he used included charred, fried, roasted, smoked, grilled, griddled and nestled in a pit of smoldering embers.
The atmosphere was congenial and relaxed, a place where people could simply enjoy good food together.
Chef Michael graduated from the New England Culinary Institute, after developing a passion for cooking under Chef Pamela Waterman. He has worked with some of Cleveland’s best chefs, including Dante Boccuzzi and Jonathon Sawyer.
These are not the only outstanding pop-up dinners that have been held at the CVI. We could keep going down memory lane for quite some time—but it’s time to also give you a glimpse of what lies ahead.
Upcoming Pop-up Event at the CVI
Chef Scott Schneider, Chef de Cuisine of New York’s celebrated Ai Fiori restaurant with a Michelin Star rating, will return to his roots on August 24, 2019. He was born in Vermilion in Northern Ohio, a largely agricultural area that exposed Scott to a climate producing the freshest ingredients in spring and summer months. Scott was inspired by his grandfather, who was raised on a farm and helped to develop his knowledge for growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables in his garden.
He will be cooking a popup dinner at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan in collaboration with young chefs from the Lorain County JVS Culinary arts program, where his own culinary career began.
He will prepare a five-course meal showcasing seasonal vegetables from The Chef’s Garden, with the JVS students serving as his sous chefs. Lorain County JVS was “truly lifechanging,” Chef Scott says. “The instructors really took the time to teach me the proper tools to succeed at the next level. I’m extremely grateful for the instructors pushing me to do competitions. It helped teach me that hard work really does pay off. Some days I’d be at school an hour before school and stay after three to four hours just to train!”
From there, Chef Scott attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, then worked in some of New York’s great kitchens, including Restaurant 81, Union Square Café, La Mangeoire and Bar Basque before landing at Ai Fiori in 2011. He rose through the ranks at Ai Fiori, moving from line cook to Executive Sous Chef to Chef de Cuisine in five short years.
The popup menu at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in August will include:
Insalata di pomodoro
Heirloom tomato salad, charred watermelon, basil pesto, stracciatella cheese
Crudo de passera
Fluke crudo, summer radish, trout roe, lemon, crème fraiche
Milk-braised veal parcels, gold bar squash, zucchini, morel mushrooms, sugo
Olive oil poached striped bass, coco beans, marinated cucumbers, herb salad
Yogurt panna cotta, lime gelee, compressed melon, cantaloupe granite
Unlike the other pop-up dinners described in this post, with this one, with Chef Scott and the aspiring chefs in the JVS culinary program, tickets are still available!