Why to Try Cooking at a Pop-Up Restaurant

In Chapter 4 of 16 in her 2012 interview, author and food writer Cathy Erway answers "What Made You Create a Pop-Up Restaurant and What Did You Learn from the Experience?"  Erway creates a pop-up restaurant at Milk Bar restaurant in Brooklyn to try cooking for larger audiences at night.  The pop-up setting allows her to personalize a dining experience using a restaurant rather than supper club model. 

Cathy Erway is an author and food writer living in Brooklyn.  Her first book, "The Art of Eating In" developed from her blog "Not Eating Out in New York".  She earned a BA in creative writing from Emerson College.


Erik Michielsen:  What made you create a pop-up restaurant and what did you learn from the experience?

Cathy Erway:  Oh that was a fun project. So I ran a pop-up restaurant in a restaurant that a new acquaintance, new friend, was the chef at for a while. And it was really fun, it was a collaboration with somebody I'd never worked with before. I'm always up for that kind of challenge and it's funny because I think he'd heard of my pop-up dinners with the Hapa Kitchen or something else, some functions that I was doing, and he just approached me and asked, "Hey, I really want to do some -- I'm really inspired. I wanna do pop-ups at this restaurant," because they were actually a cafe and they were open during the day, they close at 6. So it's like free real estate for a dinner, so it's a perfect--I think it's a perfect situation. You take over this tiny cafe, and turn it into an occasional restaurant. So I highly encourage anyone to try that.

Erik Michielsen:  How'd you handle the experience, kinda cooking for a larger crowd and a faster changing crowd?

Cathy Erway:  Yeah that was a new experience because we didn't have everyone sit down at once and then serve them at once. So the chef I was working with, Josh, he just wanted to do it like a regular restaurant. So people walk in, you can take reservations too, you try to turn over as many covers as you can within the course of the night, you make as many ingredients. It was like a regular restaurant. So I've never--I was like, "Oh, this is totally novel to me. " And I was describing how I did it, and he was like, "Oh, that's totally novel to me." Like the whole supper club way, everyone sits and eats at once. So I tried it--we tried it his way and that was a new learning experience for me. And then I realized, oh, it’s about volume and making people leave sooner. I mean, not that we did, of course, but you know, in theory, that's how a restaurant works, is you gotta turn it over.

Erik Michielsen:  And how did that compare and contrast with say the Hapa Kitchen supper club?

Cathy Erway:  Hapa kitchen supper club is more of like a wandering salon of totally different, unique experiences, and one of the things we did was always--it was always in a different atmosphere. Like, atmosphere was pretty important so our first dinner was out in a farm in Queens County Farm Museum. We had two big huge events. That were at the Gowanus Yard, or the Brooklyn Yard it used to be called. And that was pretty cool. Then we did other intimate dinners that were in people's houses, and we kind of really decked it all out in a certain way, like, for this one Shanghai and French dinner, Paris of the East. And we got all dressed up in chipaos. Yeah, so I mean, it was--that was the theme for that club, but having it always in the same place with different menus, that was the pop-up concept for Milk Bar, which is a restaurant we used.