When I have decided to go ahead and organize a pop-up tasting event, the final decision has not been an easy one to reach. If you think about the specifics, it is actually quite overwhelming and shuddering. For starters, you have to have enough budgets to cover everything from purchasing the essentials of pots, glasses, and plates to the decors of the interiors to supporting the employees during this period and above all, some marketing strategy to promote your establishment. What is really frightening though is that the public relations and media cost a fortune in what is already a very limited budget pool. Adding more to the uncertainty is that one has no idea if the investment in media will have the positive projected effect in reaching our target audience in this very limited pop-up period. Keep in mind that we are not running a restaurant which is meant to last in years. The pop-up format is more difficult because it requires you to invest as if it were a restaurant albeit the luxuries to offset the costs in the long run like restaurants do.
The fact is that we need the exposures and the patronage from the public in order to balance our rapidly accumulating costs and diminishing budget and it is practically arduous to accomplish in such a short time we are running. Further to complicate the matter is that the pop-ups are only attempted by renowned chefs whose reputation already guarantees a horde of diners impatiently waiting to snatch a reservation in the already limited seating pool. Unlike a newly opened restaurant, it has some time to tweak and adjust its learning curve before reaching its full potential, we don’t. When we open, we have to be ready; we simply cannot afford mistakes or any down time. Despite all that, to put it bluntly, the biggest factor that breaks or makes a restaurant is the funding availability. For me, I do not the luxury of a third party backing me up financially nor do I have the professional firms with the proper relations and the packaged skills to help promote and navigate the problems bound to encounter during this event. Celebrity chefs have a whole range of arsenals at his/her disposal whether be the experts in legal issues, designers in interior decors, purchasers in securing ingredients and supplies and managers delegating the tasks, I ask then what I have besides myself?
The other day we were talking about scouting potential PR consultant and the issue of my autobiography came up. Through discussion, I find it interesting that most PR is used to cutting and pasting a line of interest in someone’s life and endorse it in order to insert it into the public’s recognized sense of appeal and assumed quality value. For example, the Cordon Bleu Culinary school, or the currently world renowned chefs or restaurants, if a candidate being promoted has ever been with any of these, such attribute gets greatly boasted to an elevated status. Delving into the reality of it, anyone can go to the Cordon Bleu, a dishwasher or an intern can manage to work at these prestigious premises, but the details concerning the candidate gets potentially blurred out. All that gets mentioned then is the names of the already recognized in repetition to force the association of the candidate to the assumed quality value of the public. For example, we all know that Noma is a top restaurant in the world, so anyone or anything associated with Noma must be also good.
But it in fact reveals no additional information regarding the candidate for those who are wary and perceptive. That is of course not to say working at these renowned places did not rub off some positive attitude, skills and experience on the candidate as a whole. But I believe it’s more than important to reinvent yourself; being with the renowned chef under his/her apprenticeship does not guarantee personal innovation and the choice to continuously apply his/her philosophy in the cooking when branching out is the extension of their influence on you, rather the expression of yourself. I had the opportunity to dine at a restaurant whose head chef also once worked at Noma for close to a decade. The dishes served were in good flavor and top standard, but the dishes resembled closely with what would have been served at Noma. The question then arose if I should have just gone and dined at Noma instead. After all, I did not experience a new different cuisine that was the head chef’s own innovation and expression, but just a lingering extension of Noma’s shadows. If you have the opportunity to start a place of your own, at what point does taking what you learned from the previous establishment to serve at your own place becomes plagiarism?
I think there are many myths associated with our values of being good. It’s important to be able to discern the media pollution to unveil the chastity of truth. From the beginning, I have always tried to be as transparent as possible about what we do at the studio because there really is no glamour or vanity associated with running an establishment. Some chefs may argue otherwise or have you believe in their facade of superiority, but to be able to excel in fact takes hard work, practice, dedication, refinement, commitment, and relentless pursuit for better and uncompromising standard in addition to the ingenuity and skills to pull off a successful restaurant and as a leader as a whole. So going back to what I have as my arsenal, I want to tell you that I am neither superior nor privileged in any way, but just an ordinary and humble individual. Like you, I have dreams and aspirations and at times, temper tantrums and the unfavorable reality to deal with. You won’t hear about my association with the world renowned chefs or restaurants because there isn’t any to mention or tell you. I studied at post graduate school but followed my nose and palate instead to this culinary world. Like everyone else, I tried to pursue where my passion leads me. The school gave me the tools of know-hows and my appreciation for the arts and nature reward me with the inspirations for possibilities. Together with the two I have, I try to reform the repetitive from the approach of an artist’s view and bring about some new ideas in this little studio that is my world and my creation. I have never let the difficulties or the complications of the dishes I dreamt up discourage me, only that I tackle the problem by investing more time to solve it. The apprenticeship under renowned chefs is a popular and preferred choice by many as a positive advancement in the industry. Contrary to the popular belief, my culinary journey without one has not been my obstacle and instead becomes my strength and is rewarding and productive. It gave me different insights and perspectives when it comes to conceiving the concepts of dishes and executing the preparations.
I welcome and implore you with warmth to come to see what dishes, I, as your next average fellow human being, have been able to dream up. When you come to my studio, you won’t be met with the superficiality of cold stares you often come across when window shopping at the brand name stores. You will also not be greeted by being asked “how many.” If you are curious about our dishes, I will be more than happy to share with you without being evasive. Because when you come, you are giving me a chance to be a step closer to my dreams and I will gladly do the same for you, too. Like you, I am also customers and have been mistreated before so I wrote down all the good and the bad about the essentials of the service and they become the standardized practice of my place.
So do not be afraid to come to my studio simply because you have not heard of me. Give me a chance and I will work extra hard to impress you. Your needs will be considerately tended to with care and earnestness. Come, have fun, forage and walk into the woods with me!