So What had happened was...
I came up with this fantastic idea to host a "Pop-Up" Kitchen here in the Capital District. To my knowledge, nothing like this had ever been done before, and with my young, fresh and fun twist on all things food, I knew right away that I would be up for the challenge.
Of course all things sound AMAZINGLY doable, until you actually sit down and write EVERY LITTLE DETAIL on paper. At this point, I had put the cart before the horse, sent out the Save-The-Date, without having any CONFIRMED details regarding this event. No location, no menu, no nothing. I prayed to the man above that I would be able to build enough anticipation to leverage support as I delivered the ultimate culinary experience. With so much to do, in so little time, I knew I had to kick into overdrive, shift gears, and knock out the following items from my to do list!
1. SECURE A LOCATION
Securing a location was my number 1 priority. Although I knew I wanted to do a pop-up kitchen, I was still deciding whether or not I wanted to keep with 8 Count Kitchen tradition and entertain in an intimate and less formal setting, or if I wanted to spice it up, try something new, and entertain in a restaurant to and create a more formal dining experience. Although my friend's home seemed to be the PERFECT fit, I knew that I wanted to put myself up to the challenge by assuming the role of "Executive Chef" for the night. Now I must admit, I was nervous as a mouse in a snake tank because outside of Food Network's All-Star Academy, I had never worked in a formal restaurant kitchen before...I mean unless you count McDonald's circa 2006, lol!
Nonetheless, it was time to make it happen! Finally after doing my homework, and considering a number of restaurants and private event locations, I decided to pitch the idea to Bangkok Bistro.The owners were intrigued by the idea, and before I knew it, Bangkok Bistro had been selected as the location/venue for the event.
2. CREATE A MENU
This must have been the most ANNOYING part of the process. Don't get me wrong, it was extremely fun, but when I tell you I went BACK AND FORTH sooooo many times, listen... You don't even know the half of it, lol! Here are a few bullet points to help affirm some of my struggle, lol!
- I knew that I was going to incorporate at least (2) of the dishes I prepared on Food Network's All-Star Academy. Off the bat, I knew my infamous "5 Cheese Mac and Please," would be one of them, but what would my other options be? Do I do my Thai dish since I'll be hosting the event in a Thai restaurant, or one of my elimination dishes to show strength?
- I was committed to creating a menu that had something on it for everyone. I knew I wanted a vegetarian dish (with hopes of being able to also make it vegan), an ethnic dish, a comfort food dish, a dangerously delicious dish, and a deconstructed dessert. But hmm...what to decide?
- I also wanted to include a seafood dish, but then I took in consideration seafood allergies, and having to adjust the ticket price, so I made this a seafood-less menu.
After going back and forth, and even reprinting the menus MULTIPLE TIMES (talk about indecisive, lol) I decided to stick to the following:
3. SECURE A TEAM
My first idea was to hire a professionally trained staff, but then I realized that not only might it be costly, but it would over formalize, over complicate, and potentially compromise the 8 Count Kitchen culture. So of course I thought to myself, "Time to bring in the big dogs!" I decided to bring in people who knew me inside and out, and who are no strangers to the "focused" Jermaine who is under pressure and in overdrive mode. It was time to bring in my BEST FRIEND (of 18 years) CJ, my A 1-Day 1, Ness Diddy, my other half, Isaiah, and My Brother from another mother, Jacques! CJ and Nessa would entertain guests, and help to hand out plates in between courses, Jacques would host the event and manage the floor, and Isaiah would be my eyes and ears and assist as needed. I had it all planned out...Perfectly. Then I thought to myself "Who's going to help me in the kitchen?" I remembered when I was on the show, I received a message on LinkedIn that read:
"Congratulations on making the show, that's big. If you ever need a sous chef, you know where to find me."
So my mind immediately thinks about Tim, an old friend of mine from my first job out of college. I contacted him, he was totally stoked, and the next thing I knew, he was ready to travel from Pittsburgh N.Y. to help me deliver the dinner of a lifetime!
Check out my team below:
4. SOLIDIFY THE EVENT FLOW
If you know anything about me, you know I am a non-traditionalist. The creative side of my brain influences everything-- From my abstract twists on traditional cuisine, to the way I dress, and the way I present myself. So my goal was to create an experience that mirrored those same ideals. By creating a formal dining experience, in a relaxed space, with a "dress-to-impress" dress code, playing smooth groove hip-hop and RnB hits, I was able to develop a comfortable atmosphere for a well-balanced group of guests.
5. CREATE A GUEST LIST
Everyone knows that I am huge on "social dynamic". With (2) advanced degrees in the social sciences (B.A., Communication and Rhetoric, M.A., Organizational Communication) It would probably make a bit of sense right? Lol... I knew that I wanted a beautiful mix of people. Younger, older, darker, lighter, introverted, extroverted, and the whole nine. So I wrote down a list of all of the people that I wanted to be there, sent out my digital invitation, spoke it to existence, and BOOM!... About 85% of my anticipated guest list was present. I was committed to creating an environment where people could learn from each other, appreciate each other's differences, and hopefully get to know someone that they may have ever spoken to otherwise. And judging from all of the smiling faces, it seemed like "Operation Social Games" was successful!
6. DEFINE THE "SMALL" DETAILS
Everyone knows that I thoroughly enjoy throwing events. Although stressful, its always rewarding to see the fruits of your labor, and the end result of your hard work. Believe it or not, the small details are the biggest. Everything from the of the space, to the vibe of the music... EVERYTHING counts. I made sure that each table was dressed with black linen, a red restaurant napkin, and freshly picked flowers to match the floral aesthetic of the menu, and the edible floral components to a couple of my dishes. I also made sure that we had (3) customized drink menus on display at the bar, with custom recipes that I created (and Bangkok Owner, Michelle Tran perfected), and drink names that would be fun and engaging for the guests. I also designed content to be looped in a slide show on the television at the bar, that would promote our signature drink specials, send a couple of gratifying messages to my guests, and showcase my culinary artistry in between courses. Not to mention, I actually sketched out each dish, the ingredients, the garnishes, and the way it would be plated. (see sketch below)
7. ESTABLISH A LOCAL PARTNERSHIP
Things get a bit tricky when you're pricing these events. You don't want to go too high, and potentially limit the number of attendees, but you don't want to go too low, and end up with a huge loss. But when choosing an appropriate price, one thing you'll have to consider (and unfortunately cannot always leverage), is your food cost. I was on a mission to create, maintain and sustain a relationship with the perfect local business, and I was successful at doing so. Thanks to the this newly established relationship, I was able to provide an elegant 5- Course meal, at only $55 a person. Let the church say amen! Lol #WontHeDoIt
Needless to say...
the event was a complete SUCCESS! The food was delicious, the drinks were divine, the vibe was on point, and the guests were completely entertained. Aside from a few equipment issues, which completely affected timing, It was definitely an event that will go down in the books. To everyone that attended, thank you SOOOO very much for spending your Saturday night with me. It was great to see all of your smiling faces...And those smiling faces reminded me why I do what I do! To those who wanted to come, but could not attend, thank you for supporting from a distance. There will be future opportunities for you to get down with the get down, so please be on the look out. To everyone else, peace, love and blessings! Til' next time!
To book your next 8 Count Kitchen Dinner, or to simply say hello, contact me using the information below!