That was the question facing Dallas diners last night at a sell out event at Trinity Groves. Kitchen LTO is a (oxymoron ahead) “permanent pop-up restaurant”. The site, the wine and beer list, and the staff will all be permanent (except that the staff will age at the same rate as they would anywhere else…). The chef and the restaurant design will change every four months. The LTO in the name stands for “Limited Time Offer” (my guess, “long-term operation”, turned out to be way off). This macabre, but rather brilliant idea is the brainchild of Casie Caldwell, founder and owner of Greenz, the salad chain where they teach spelling.
Every city will have one of these in a few years time as it’s a win-win for all sides of the culinary experience.
A promising chef doesn’t need to raise the $1m+ capital to open a first class facility in the “right” location. Kitchen LTO is up and staffed – just light the blue touch paper. The chef can do their best work without having to worry about how to pay for the next roll of bathroom tissue.
Investors can watch the chef do his or her magic for four months and take the financial plunge with a far more proven article. Nobody with money ever need buy Countrywide Mortgage obligations ever again.
Designers with real talent, but no reputation, get a budget to deck out the place for the chef’s tenure. For many, it will be the most compelling addition to their portfolio of work.
Consumers will know exactly where Kitchen LTO is and that it is a must-go destination. A rotating cast of rising culinary stars.
The permanent staff at the facility will see it re-imagined every four months with a new design, and a new chef. I spoke to incoming GM Simon Holguin and he’s pumped.
The event last night was to vote for a favorite chef and designer. The applicant field had already been winnowed down to five chef finalists and five designer finalists by a distinguished committee consisting of Sharon Van Meter (Chef/Owner 3015 Trinity Groves), Chad Houser (Executive Director, Cafe Momentum), Chris Zielke (Owner, Bolsa/Bolsa Mercado/Chicken Scratch/Smoke), Rebecca Wright (Special Events Coordinator, Trulucks), Michael Miller (Senior Vice President, UCR Urban), Casie Caldwell (Kitchen LTO creator), Blythe Beck (Executive Chef, Movie Lounge), Bob Sambol (Founder, Bob’s Steak & Chophouse) and Jason Kosmas (Owner, The 86 Co.). I suspect that this is why my idea for a restaurant serving fried bat wings dished up by roller-skating waitresses in goldfish outfits didn’t make it (I still think it has promise).
The pictures below tell the story about the chefs and their menus. There was not a weak link among them so my tie-breaker was for the restaurant concept that is least like what we have already. That vote is Darius Gibson’s New Orleans Cajun theme.
Among designers, Karen Chidiac at House of Holland Design in Southlake got my vote for her plan to turn a wall into a garden. This is being done on skyscrapers in various cities around the world and whereas it may become a standing feature at every Wendy’s sometime in the future, right now it stops traffic. If the creative pigmies who designed Victory Park had had the nous to do this the place would be fully leased by now instead of a Mongolia style ghost city.
Voting stays open until June 10th with the winners announced the following day. Whoever is chosen Kitchen LTO could be the best new restaurant (concept) this year.