A few weeks in planning and finally it happened: Po-Po's debuted at the Tradesman, a bar in East Williamsburg. I’m happy to report that what was dreamed up over brunch ended up being more successful than I could have imagined. We had no intentions of selling more than 30 beef rolls, but ended up cranking out 90+ orders. "Sold out" never sounded so good.
How it began
About a month ago, while at dinner with my pals Amy and Amanda, I suggested that the three of us host a pop-up restaurant. Amy and Amanda – both of whom are professional cooks – very candidly expressed their concerns with the complexity of a sit-down course by course event. They encouraged me instead, to focus on one dish. That one dish turned out to be my “Chinese burrito," which frequently makes an appearance at my dinner parties. It’s my take on a very popular old-school Taiwanese street snack which incorporates my Pǒ-Pó’s recipes for five-spice braised beef and scallion pancakes.
Amanda suggested hosting this event at the Tradesman. I was feeling gung-ho but terrified. How would I take something home-cooked and turn it into a dish palatable for a larger, broader (and possibly vegetarian) audience?
Starting a food pop-up
With the popularity of food pop-ups and trucks in the last few years, it’s no wonder so many of my peers are in pursuit of the next Kogi Truck or name-your-next-pop-up-at-Smorgasburg. What started as an underdog/underground movement has evolved into a competitive marketplace for the privileged to hawk overpriced food. A pop-up as we know it here in NYC is less like a lemonade stand and more like actual restaurant. It's competitive. The food can be pricey. The wait? Unbearable. But all that aside, I do love the idea that anyone—everyone—can pursue a career in culinary because of this. Those of us looking for good food can always tell the difference between who keeps it real, and who's just looking for a quick buck.
Sentiment surrounding this food pop-up trend is debate-worthy, but one thing is for sure – hosting a pop-up is undeniably difficult. I know now having done one, what a feat it is. From the planning to the actual execution — all of it is incredibly manual. And without the enthusiasm and support from my friends, I would have never made it through those three torturous hours in the kitchen.
To the fabulous group of friends I had with me at the pop-up who took their time out to help make this happen: Thank you for helping me make this happen. Without you, without the unending whisky shots, high-fives, dancing, oh yes—and assembling of beef rolls, this would not have been the first-class experience it was.
Aside from all the sentimental revelations about the importance of good friends—one of my other favorite and more enduring takeaways from this was that there's nothing better than sharing my culture and love of food with others. It's been such an amazing, enriching journey... onward ho!