Popping Up Again

Popping Up Again

Two days ago I asked Chef what he was up to for the evening. I had just been paid. Though not yet in my pocket, the money was begging me to spend it on a meal out.

“I’m cooking at the pop-up,” he answered. “Come cook with us tomorrow. We’ll grab Thai food afterwards.”

The same pop-up restaurant he helmed earlier this year continues with its regular rotation of chefs. This time the guest chef is both a fiend of Chef’s and someone you might recognize if, say, you watch a certain top cooking show. So, of course, I said, “Sure!”

I’ve mentioned this chef before, first in this post and then this one, so it’s probably time I gave him a name. Let’s call him Bean.

Cooking with Bean

I was going to tell you how the evening started, the great idea Chef and I came up with on the way to the pop-up, how everyone noticed my new haircut… But I’ll save you the suspense. Because all you really want to know is…

Yes. He is just as affable and charming as he is on television. The first time I plated his salad dish – a bouquet of pea shoots on a bed of kumquat pudding studded with bright blue borage flowers, I forgot an ingredient: a few little feathery sprigs of chamomile.

As Bean was on his way to deliver the plates himself, he stopped and asked, “Do these have chamomile?” I flinched, expecting to get the verbal equivalent of a wallop. I grabbed the chamomile.

“Sorry, Chef,” I said.

“It’s okay. We caught it in time,” said Bean.

I felt like I was in the room with a whiling dervish. He was everywhere at once and moving in twists and twirls like a dancer. Albeit a very tall man-dancer. I was in the kitchen version of Fantasia. This is partly due to Bean’s height (he doesn’t have to move around you – he can move over you), but it’s also due to the layout.

The kitchen is set up strangely at the new location of the pop-up. It’s an espresso bar by day, so the cold plates, which I prepared, are all made in the coffee bar. Chef and another guy (who I’ll call Inglewood) worked back in a cave-like kitchen while Bean swooped back and forth. I’ve worked in six kitchens now and this one was by far the most awkward and the least conducive to one of the things I love about cooking in a restaurant: camaraderie.

When Chef did his pop-up week, we were physically in the same space. It was like we were part of this many-armed cooking machine. Last night that machine felt detached.

As soon as I plated the last amuse and the last pea shoot salad, I crawled back into the kitchen.

“Roll me out some balls!” cried Chef.

Though for some reason it feels like a joke to me when I use his title since we’ve become pals, I hopped to.

“Yes, Chef!”

Finale
At the end of the night we shared a tequila shot and Bean asked if I would be coming back.

“If you need me,” I replied.

“She’s coming,” Chef interjected.

After a few awkward hugs, Chef and I drove home. We decided we were both too tired and not hungry enough to go for Thai food after all. We pulled into his parking spot out back, got out of the car, and as we were walking back toward our apartments, Chef looked at his phone. A friend had texted him saying he should come to Red Medicine.

“Come on,” said Chef, “Let’s go.”