“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 Phillip Dewayne, 29, who has hosted spontaneous pop-ups for two years now as a way to gauge new food ideas. His pop-ups are generally inspired by life and his experiences, so each is unique and intrinsically creative. The initial idea was inspired by private mansion parties hosted in San Diego for up to 200 people by invitation only. His events are usually very impromptu. Most times, an afternoon group text turns into a pop-up dinner for 20 or 30 by the evening.
Edible Memphis: How do you plan your pop-ups?
Chef Phillip Dewayne: These are very impromptu, so finding a spot can be checking to see if a friend’s home is available to jumping on Airbnb and finding something I think would fit the occasion. I don’t sell tickets; my pop-ups are typically free.
I want people to want to come and enjoy themselves without worrying about cost.
These are also usually invite only.
EM: What are the benefits of doing pop-ups? Do you aspire to have your own restaurant?
I like educating my guests on foods they don’t typically eat.
Like bok choy instead of cabbage, or butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes. They’re easier than restaurants because they don’t have a huge overhead. I’ve been the chef of a restaurant, and while I enjoy the line, for now I just want to enjoy the ability to travel and introduce people to a healthier way of eating.
EM: How has your formal training influenced your pop-ups?
Phillip: Pop-ups for me are being in the moment and being inspired. The first pop-up I did was at midnight and very spur of the moment. I like to add my own perspective to food and open the guests’ palates. The way I do that is with culture and education. I like to educate my guests with new and unexpected pairings of food or dishes they haven’t tried before.
EM: What inspires you?
Phillip: Inspiration comes from so many different places. It’s so hard for me to pick. Lately, it’s been movies. Movies really inspire me. I might be watching a mob movie and think of a way I can create and cultivate something or focus on an aspect of the mob. Travel and culture inspire me. I always want to bring the culture that I experience back to the pop-up dinners. Some of my guests may not be able to travel, but I bring the tastes back and introduce them to the cultural palates.
EM: What are some challenges you’ve experienced in hosting pop-ups?
Phillip: I think most importantly you have to know your crowd in Memphis—what they like and don’t like. I can’t force you to eat what I’m making, but I can make something that makes you feel comfortable.
In Memphis, people have to know you and feel you to buy into your brand.
If I can’t buy into you and how you feel, I can never get comfortable with you as a consumer. In order to buy into your brand, they have to know you. I’m real big on educating the eater. I say, “This is going to be different, but if you trust me and vibe with me. . . ” So going back to what inspires me and movies, in Point Break one of the last feats was the “ultimate trust.” I was inspired to create a dinner called Ultimate Trust, where I created dishes that you didn’t know of or were familiar with and you trusted me to please your palettes.
EM: What’s your signature dish? (pictured)
Phillip: Sea Bass with Mediterranean Olive and Pepper Relish, Israeli Couscous and Mango Chutney.
EM: What’s next for you?
Phillip: I haven’t set a date for the next pop-up. It will be impromptu, so follow me:
chefphillipdewayne.com and @chefphillipdewayne.
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