Beard Pop-Up Launches In New York's Chelsea Market

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For 27 days JBF LTD will host hot chefs, Food Network talent, Gilt City and Angus Beef ranchers
Laurent Gras' menu.
Arthur Bovino

Laurent Gras' menu.

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What goes into designing the space for a James Beard Foundation pop-up in New York's Chelsea Market?

"Four long tables, 27 days, a half mile of wire, 1,200 light bulbs, 80 chairs, and 100 jars of colored water," said James Biber of Biber Architects, who was in charge of redesigning the former 202 space to house the Foundation's temporary restaurant, JBF LTD.

With chefs like Laurent Gras (formerly of L20 in Chicago), David Chang, and David Kinch (Manresa) among others, there's no shortage of star power. In addition to cooking separately, there's even an East Coast-West Coast all-star team, with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal pairing up with Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli of Frankies Spuntino to cook on April 29th.

Vice president of the Foundation Mitchell Davis noted that tonight's kick-off dinner hosted by Chef Laurent Gras sold out in 40 minutes. The second dinner sold out in 11. Tickets go on sale on the Foundation's site every Wednesday at noon. (One can only imagine how quickly David Chang's will go.)

"I'd qualify this as a very social event," Chef Gras noted when asked what the pop-up would allow him to do differently. "When you're outside your space you get to work with your usual database of customers but it allows you to do different things. The communal tables have a sharing effect. There's less privacy. The food I'm cooking here is the food I'd cook at home, it's not just designed for a three Michelin-star restaurant."

Gras was quiet on his next move. But considering his menu from the 12th to the 16th (butter-poached Jonah crab and côte de boeuf with foie), it's safe to say, if that's what he's cooking at home, people would pay to eat there too.

The second dinner, hosted by Chef Aaron Israel of Brooklyn's Mile End will be inspired by Passover Seder and feature live music by The Shul Band. "We're going to do this family-style with each course based off things you'd see on a Seder plate," Israel explained. "We'll have a smoked lamb shoulder and for dessert charoset, a flourless walnut cake."