The pop-up used to be the resourceful chef’s restaurant—a means for young cooks to temporarily sidestep the hurdles and headaches associated with brick-and-mortar ownership and prove themselves to the public (and potential investors). But in 2018, pop-ups aren’t merely a precursor; they’re the format of choice for a generation of chefs whose ambitions could never be contained by four walls. From live-fire obsessed chef Danny Newberg, who dropped out of the NYC fine dining scene to host site-specific events under the name Joint Venture, to the work of the I-Collective, a far-flung community of Indigenous chefs and activists who collaborate on events highlighting issues of food sovereignty, sustainability, and native foodways, some of the most compelling meals we had this year were as ephemeral as they were delicious.
Take chef Anya Peters. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, the 21-year-old felt far away from the Trinidadian and Jamaican home cooking that inspired her to pursue a career in food in the first place.
“I was like, if I’m going to reconnect with my heritage, I gotta ask my O.G.s,”she recalls.
So Peters launched Kit an’ Kin, a mostly-monthly Caribbean dinner series that allowed her to not only honor her family’s culinary traditions, but to literally cook alongside the parents, siblings, and grandparents who made the Sunday suppers of her childhood so special. “I finally found who I want my teachers to be, and how I wanted to learn,” she says. “Anyone who has been to our events has eaten food cooked by my dad and been served by my mom.”
The feasts, which feature island classics like coconut-laced rice and peas, fricassee chicken, and flaky patties stuffed with tender braised oxtail, are held at Cafe Erzulie in Brooklyn, on a backyard veranda that Peters and her father built to emulate her mother’s childhood home in Jamaica.
“I’m the chef,” Peters says, “but really I’m a connector, a liaison, and a platform. I want each pop-up to hold space for a family member I’ve learned from.”