It’s a trend that is certainly on the rise: the pop-up dining experience. This summer marks the seventh version of chef Ludo Lefebvre's LA-based pop-up restaurant LudoBites, while Thomas Keller is opening a pop-up version of his beloved The French Laundry restaurant for 10 days in Harrods this fall, serving nine-course meals that will surely delight. But unlike other pop-up dinners, the meal isn’t the only star of the show at The Cookery, a pop-up dinner party that keeps, well, reappearing throughout Manhattan.
The intimate events are created and produced by chef Camille Becerra, a former contestant on Top Chef and former owner of the now-closed Paloma in Greenpoint, and Lelaine Lau, an event creator and producer with over 15 years experience in the hospitality business who has worked with some of the top restauranteurs in the country like Keith McNally and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. In creating The Cookery, “we sought to create a showcase for our talents,” Lau says. Just like at a traditional dinner party, “we want our guests to go away having had a memorable evening, eating good food, making new friends, and enjoying the post-dinner entertainment,” she adds.
Unlike a traditional pop-up restaurant where the focus is on the food, The Cookery seeks to create a complete sensory experience for each guest. There is the artfully-created five-course menu, inspired by the seasons and served family-style as if you were gathered around a friend’s dining room table. Each course is paired with a specially-crafted cocktail like the Cherry Fix, a blend of gin, lemon, and fresh muddled cherries. The setting is intimate, as well, with dim lighting, carefully-mixed playlists, and seating arrangements made with thought by Lau herself. At the dinner I attended on July 26th, guests came in groups of all sizes (from two to eight) and from distances as far away as Chicago and Australia, yet somehow we all came together. By the end of the night, new friendships had been forged as tablemates drifted upstairs to enjoy dessert and the after-dinner entertainment. (Dancing, anyone?)
Limited only by the extent of their imaginations (and budget, of course), each event takes place in a new location and brings together a mix of artists, musicians, DJ’s, designers, and stylists to create a unique and memorable experience. And the number varies by event, says Lau. “Becerra is the constant, with various talents doing the wine or liquor pairings, the décor, the background music, the post-dinner entertainment, and where possible by venue, art.” The success thus far has been tremendous, with guests coming back for each new event and wonderful properties interested in doing new events are approaching them, something tremendously gratifying for Becerra and Lau. And based on the conversations at the dinner on July 26th, the guests just keep wanting to come back — just what any host would want.
The Cookery’s Summer Feasts continue with two “Picnics in the Park” on August 10th and 17th. Click here for tickets. To learn more future events taking place in the fall, visit the site to sign up for the newsletter.