Whew! We did it! A year and a half of wavering, planning, practicing, tasting, and finally, setting a date…and it’s now done.
I’m talking about the May Day Popup Brunch, an event one of my best friends , Shirley and I hosted.
For the past five years or so, I’ve been going to restaurant popup dinners by well-regarded chefs like Gary Menes, Ludo Lefebvre, and the guys from Tacos Punta Cabras in Santa Monica. I’ve been in awe of these top chefs, as well as the great Nancy Silverton and precise Niki Nakayama. Without having gone to culinary school (yet), I’ve taken various cooking classes and practice new dishes regularly. So when the popup trend began, I secretly considered it a possible “in” for me. But, I didn’t know how…
And then a year and a half ago, the idea struck me that it’s something I could actually do. I met a man at my old gym who has a great restaurant and they don’t serve brunch… Ding! The idea was planted in my mind. I asked Shirley if she’d be interested in doing it together. She was hesitant at first, so I kept asking. Finally, she agreed and we went about setting up a meeting with Woogene, the restaurant owner of fundamental LA. He laid out the costs associated and informed us how the restaurant does this sort of thing. We started planning and practicing brunch ideas and cooking up a storm on a regular basis. But we didn’t set a date. We didn’t feel ready. Then, it was autumn 2015 and timing was just bad with conflicting holiday parties.
So, January or February 2016 and we started planning again. We hosted a practice brunch for eight friends and made some dishes for feedback. The reviews were eggcellent! Our dear friend Naz convinced us to set a date, and we did: May 1st, 2016, May Day.
Before the Event:
For a couple of weeks before the May Day Popup Brunch, we were fine-tuning our breakfast sandwich, practicing chia seed pudding, and adjusting our cinnamon roll recipe. We stayed up super late cooking a couple times a week and doing tons of marketing to get people to come. A few days before the event, we went to many grocery stores and a restaurant/food wholesaler to shop for our foods. It was unbelievable to find giant, pillow-sized bags of spinach for $3.99 and a long log of goat cheese for $4.25. But it all adds up… and food costs get expensive when you’re shopping in major bulk.
We cracked and prepped 180 eggs, marking them in containers for our distinct dishes. We grated 30 pounds of potatoes for hash browns. We caramelized 10 pounds onions with the help of our amazingly helpful friend, Jonesy (I wrote about him here). We soaked our soft-baked french toast overnight, which had four loaves of delicious French baguettes, eight cups of milk , and 48 eggs! I prepped and slow-roasted 17 pounds of carnitas for the ancient grain bowl. Shirley made eight times the amount of her infamous banana bread. These quantities were mind-blowing to us, two women who feel very comfortable in the kitchen and love cooking. We took it in stride and didn’t have time to get nervous while we were cooking until 2:30 in the morning before the event. We drove to our homes to refrigerate the goods, only to turn around and deliver it all to the restaurant at 7. That’s when it really hit.
May Day Popup Brunch:
We unloaded our cars and ran wild. Time to bake the french toast, make the amaranth, prep the asparagus, roast the tomatoes, mash avocados, slice a flat of farmer’s market strawberries, and do other things so brunch service could begin at 10. Shirley started on the plancha, flat-topped grill, with the hand-grated hash browns. I plated many open-faced avocado breakfast toasts. Our friends started trickling in at 10, and by 10:30, we were full! The small, modern restaurant maintained its happy din with cheerful diners until we closed at 3:15. It was amazing! Halfway through, I took over the hot plancha. Man, it was hot! It’s no joke working the line on a restaurant! Our feet and legs were tired from days of cooking and prepping, but the final push of the restaurant was enough to exhaust us by the end.
It was unbelievable seeing so many familiar and friendly faces show up to eat our food and see us. It was a dream fulfilled in entirety. It truly could not have gone any better! The day was a perfect reminder that goal setting works: We set a goal, planned and prepared, and executed with ease and grace. Woogene was amazing to work with, and he taught us so much. Our friends Stephanie and Naz gave amazing moral support, and Stephanie jumped in as a volunteer server out of the goodness of her heart.