By Carly DeFilippo
Whether as an executive chef, butcher or co-founder of a traveling pop-up dinner series, ICE Culinary Arts and Management alum Alex Pope has received numerous accolades for his progressive style of cooking. Most notably, in 2011, he received a nomination for Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Chef,” establishing Alex among Kansas City’s most exciting culinary leaders. In his most recent venture, as the CEO and co-owner of a sustainable butcher shop, Local Pig, Alex has earned praise from the likes of the New York Times for his homemade sausages, expert cuts of meat and hands-on fabrication classes.
Tell us a little about your experiences running a pop-up restaurant and opening your butcher shop. What were your goals, your challenges, and triumphs?
Pop-up restaurants are grueling, but they’re a lot of fun and very rewarding artistically, as you get to try dishes and techniques that you just wouldn’t attempt in a day-to-day service restaurant. At my first pop-up dinner, I sauced the plate with a paintball! I bought neutral paintball shells, filled them with beet paint and shot them at each plate. Every plate was a unique splatter. (Yes, we broke plates, but not that many.) Another time, I set up the plating tables in the middle of the dining room, and for one course we brought out 15 foot ladders and the cooks stood on them to squirt different sauces out of squeeze bottles onto the plates. It was very dramatic.
The butcher shop has really been my biggest accomplishment. We’ve truly created a viable alternative food system. We bring in more than 7,000 pounds of meat and serve more than 2,000 people each week between the shop, local restaurants and grocery stores. Every animal we source is raised outdoors on a small family farm (free of drugs and confinement), is treated with dignity it’s whole life and slaughtered humanely. Everything is fresh and local—raised 50 or so miles from our shop—and we’re open 360 days a year. We accept food stamps and we have clientele from every walk of life.