The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.
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Prepping For A Pop-Up [Chad Johnson Turns SideBern’s Into Elevage For One Week]
Posted Oct 14, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Oct 14, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Imagine you’re Chad Johnson.
You’re an honored and well-respected chef at SideBern’s in Tampa. You’ve just been given the culinary keys to the upcoming Epicurean Hotel being built down Howard Avenue from your restaurant. You want to generate buzz and get people excited for the new menu at what will be the hotel’s signature restaurant, Elevage.
How best to do so?
Throw out your menu for SideBern’s for a week and substitute an entirely different menu that gives a glimpse of things to come.
Welcome to the Elevage Pop-Up.
Interest in the special event has been strong since the idea of a Tuesday-to-Saturday pop-up was announced. For five days, the SideBern’s menu goes bye-bye while diners, who had to call in to make reservations, get a taste of the elevated comfort food Johnson has planned for Elevage.
“Just about every night, we’re full,” Johnson said. “Three minutes after we sent out an email blast, our two phone lines lit up and we stayed on the phone for hours. I had 80 reservations for Saturday night I had to turn away.
The restaurant closed off the SideBern’s booking months ago when they first planned the pop-up.
“Every person who made a reservation made it over the phone with us,” Johnson said. “They know they’re coming for a non-SideBern’s experience.”
In total, more than 40 dishes will be cooked Tuesday night that have never been fully completed before. That is in addition to the new craft cocktail list by Dean Hurst and the dessert and pastry menu by Kim Yelvington.
The purpose, Johnson said, is two-fold.
“It gets a little buzz for the hotel and it also gives me and the chefs a chance to do the food,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this a long time. Making a dish when it’s just three of you standing around and then making it for service are two different things.”
Diners also will get a look at a sample of the wine list, which will average about $60 per bottle.
“It’s not cheap. We’re not going to be Applebee’s,” he said. “But if you come in and want to find a $35 or $40 bottle, we’ll have it. We’ll have an extensive list and splits at the hotel.
Bottom line: It’s a taste of things to come.
“We’ll get people in and out the door and still have a fancy experience without having to threaten a mortgage payment,” he said.
Here’s a video I shot in the SideBern’s kitchen as the chefs were prepping for this week’s meals.