Chef-Squad Kicks Off Month-Long Series of Food Pop-Ups. First Up? Hot Chicken.

Hot Chicken from #BlazingFeathers pop-upEXPAND
Hot Chicken from #BlazingFeathers pop-up
Marc Meyer

Fans of Vicki Freeman, Marc Meyer and their mini-restaurant empire of Cookshop, Hundred Acres, Rosie’s and Vic’s should take note: Beginning Sunday, five different pop-ups are being thrown up throughout the next month, inspired by squad travels with their chefs and even their own personal histories. The gallery space to the left of Vic’s on Great Jones Street will serve as pop-up central.

“I’ve always had this desire to do a pop-up because there are so many different things I’m interested in, that our chefs are interested in that I don’t know if they require a full-on restaurant,” says Freeman, as she mulls over the inspiration and challenges behind launching five baby restaurants. “Everything’s electric, there’s no gas, but it’s good because we have Vic’s right next door, so we can cook things there.”

First-up is #BlazingFeathers, the team’s ode to Nashville hot chicken joints Hattie B’s, Bolton’s and Prince’s. “We go a few times a year on these trips with our chefs,” explains Freeman. “They had just spent time in Nashville and New Orleans, and they just fell in love with it going from hot chicken place to hot chicken place.”

The same fondness for one of their own chef’s falafels inspired one of the remaining four pop-ups. “About a year ago, we hired Ayesha Nurdjaja to be the chef at Hundred Acres, which has turned much more middle eastern and mediterranean, as that’s her cuisine,” explains Freeman. “So when we wanted to do the pop-up thing, I asked her, because her falafel are to die for, ‘Would you be interested in doing falafel?’ And she said, ‘More than anything.’”

Sourcing for the menus came easy as they used the same farms as their restaurants, with the exception of the pita for the falafels. “Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery is making our pitas. I forced him into it. He probably had a moment after saying yes where he went, ‘oh crap,’” says Freeman, laughing, who has known Lahey for years. “We had a blast, as we just spent a day with him learning how to make pitas. It was fascinating, as it’s new for him too, and he just nailed these pitas.”

The wild card of the pop-ups also happens to be the only one that’s a full-on restaurant, complete with two seatings and reservations being made through Vic’s. Freeman and Meyer’s sister-in-law Maiko Freeman, who is also a caterer and the brains behind Smorgasburg vendor Oni Sauce, is tackling a 10-course Japanese home-style dinner alongside Andrew Corrigan, the chef from Cookshop, and Meyer himself, the “big daddy” of the whole operation. “I set her free with the menu,” says Freeman, without hesitation. “Every summer we go to Prince Edward Island, and for one dinner alone, we went to the docks, and they have mackerel. But they consider mackerel something that just gets caught with the other fish and they throw it away. So Maiko goes with a bag, which they fill with mackerel and just give it to her, we don’t pay anything. And she did like a 10-course mackerel dinner that just blew my mind.”

The final two pop-ups were inspired by the Jersey bakeries and New York City delis of the team’s individual childhoods. “Our pastry chef at Cookshop, Stephen Collucci, grew up in Jersey and just has this fondness for old bakeshops and coffee shops. It’s his favorite stuff to do,” says Freeman. “Hillary [Sterling, the chef from Vic’s] and Ayesha grew up in Brooklyn, and I grew up in the West Village. All our lives, we just went to delis like Katz’s, and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do that, but a bit updated?’”

The decor for the different pop-ups will change for each, and the team looked within to cut costs. “It really is our chefs doing it,” says Freeman, as she talks about the sous chef at Cookshop, who is also a chalkboard artist. “One whole wall is chalkboard, and it has the menu, what the project is. She’s going to paint on the window for every project.”

“I did not do this to make money,” claims Freeman, after talking about the drudgery behind licensing and insuring the pop-up project. “If we can break even, I’m happy. Really, it was to give our chef’s a creative outlet. Every night, they are standing at a pass and making sure the food is coming out night after night and lunch after lunch. [This is a way] to have some fun and creativity, to break out of the mold—it’s a way to do something completely different, especially for the chefs.”

33 Great Jones Street
Between Lafayette & Bowery

Sunday, March 19th
#BlazingFeathers
12pm to 8pm

Thursday, March 23rd
Home-style Japanese Dinner
6pm and 8:30pm seatings
For reservations, call 212.253.5700

Sunday, April 2nd & Saturday, April 22nd
Five & Dime Deli
12pm to 8pm

Friday, April 7th
Ba-Da-Baked Bakery
5pm-10pm

Saturday, April 8th
Ayesha’s Falafel
12pm to 8pm


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