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


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

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."

Using a commissary to do some of the cooking for Mile End has well-prepared Chef Israel and Mile End's owner Noah Bernamoff for serving dinner from someone else's kitchen. "I think we have more hotel pans here than we do at the restaurant," he said, joking. For the Mile End crew, participating also means demonstrating to the public that there's more going on at the restaurant than they may think.

"A lot of people strictly think of us for the things they know we do in the morning and the afternoon, and for the delicatessen stuff," explained Bernamoff. "But we're doing some special things at night too. This is great because we really get to demonstrate to people what it means to cook traditional Jewish comfort food. We're one of the only restaurants cooking this kind of food in the city."

Mile End isn't the only one trying to show people a different side. During the day the space will have daily programming. GiltCity will be in the space from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring DJ performances, chair massages, book signings, and food demos. And Food Network fans will be able to nibble on food provided by their test kitchen upstairs. Susie Fogelson, Food Network's senior vice president for marketing explained that the concept was too cool and too close to headquarters not to be involved. They've even given over part of their billboard across the street to advertise JBF LTD.

"We've been trying to think about how we can get closer with the James Beard Foundation and we've gotten a little more involved with the awards, but this is the perfect storm — it's a great opportunity to do something contemporary," she noted. "Pop-ups and food trucks, that's what it's all about these days, right?"


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