Photography by Andrea Fenise
“Pop-up” food experiences are, yes, popping up all over, making them one of the fastest growing trends in the food and drink industry.
Yet, as always, Memphis has her own way of making things unique for those who live, work and create here. We talked to local chefs embracing the pop-up to find out more about them and their unique takes on this trend. Here we meet Chef D.Arthur, 33. He has hosted events since 2014 including D.Arthur’s Brunch Day Party, D.Arthur’s Dinner Party and D.Arthur’s Friendsgiving. His uniquely curated menu is tailored for each event.
Edible Memphis: How did you conceptualize your pop-ups?
Chef D.Arthur: What I love the most about food is the way it is presented. I find when I make a dish or cater an event, I’m always thinking about the final product and what the presentation will look like.
At the time of conceptualizing the pop-ups, I was also looking at what Memphis needed in the social scene.
Day parties were a trend in other cities. It was a big thing. Memphis deserves this and I want to do it around food. So I asked myself,
“What do I want this event to look and feel like?”
I did one event at Beale Street Landing where we had great food served on nice china. There was great style, a good turn up, and we began elevating from there. The core is still the same—serving young professional millennials in Memphis, eating great food and having an amazing time.
EM: How do you plan your pop-ups?
D.Arthur: I try to choose different venues for every event. Most are in downtown or Midtown because that is where I like to hang out. We plan everything from the theme to the marketing to the menu to the entertainment to the cocktails.
We curate every detail and logistic of all of our events.
We sell tickets, and the best way to promote is social media for me because I have a nice following. They used to be once a year. Last year, we did two events. Our plan now is one per season.
EM: What are the benefits of doing pop-ups?
D.Arthur: Honestly, I do them to give people in Memphis something to be excited about, something to look forward to.
I also do it because I love creating.
I don’t think people can create as effortlessly in other cities as we can in Memphis. I hate to say it, and I hope it doesn’t sound or come off negative, but Memphis is kinda behind in certain areas. In other cities there are 20 people doing the same concepts on any given day.
Memphis gives you the space to create.
There are resources, people and support systems that are fostering the ability to be innovative. People are creating what they want to see in Memphis. If you are the person to create something different, you will be known as the person who created that thing. There are lanes out there. Creatives in Memphis are saying,
“This is what I want it to look like and what I want it to feel like.”
EM: How would you describe your lane in the pop-up dinners?
D.Arthur: I’m coming to understand that my lane is a little broader than I thought it was. We’ve been doing events for over four years now, and we have elevated and evolved together. Gay, straight and mostly African American, there’s no age range—everyone is just coming together to have a great time and eat great food. My lane is a real space for black folks. I want my folks in there.
I am inclusive, but I am intentional in creating a space for black folks with the pop-up dinners.
At my core, the selfish part of me wants to create and make the dishes I want to see. But I’m also doing this because Memphis needs this. Other cities have had these types of events for quite some time. I want a safe space for my people to enjoy, eat, dance to Frankie Beverly and Maze, sit or stand.
EM: What are three dishes that you serve guests at the pop-ups?
D.Arthur: Collard green egg rolls, lasagna cupcakes and honey pecan banana pudding. I think that’s what our lane became—the soul food people are used to, but elevating and presenting it in a way to open diners up to something new.
EM: What’s your signature dish? (pictured)
D.Arthur: Confetti Fried Corn with Smoked Paprika Pan Seared Shrimp.
EM: What’s next for you?
D.Arthur: Chef D.Arthur & HIS FRIENDS Present Friendsgiving | Bottomless Holiday-Inspired Buffett | Bottomless Champagne Bar| November 18, 2018 | 2-6 p.m. | Tickets Available NOW at www.chefdarthur.com
Andrea Fenise is the owner and creative director of AFLD Creative Agency, a multidisciplinary creative agency. She is a lover of great design, fashion and graphic, and enjoys sharing her obsession of food with her husband and daughter. Follow her local food tasting tours and candids on IG @andreafenise. www.andreafenise.com