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INTERVIEW: Jimmy Garcia, pop-up king

INTERVIEW: Jimmy Garcia, pop-up king

Jimmy Garcia has been dubbed by many as the pop-up king. The chef has had his praises sung very loud and clear since his three-month Jimmy’s Underground Pop-Up sold out each night last year. This summer, Jimmy’s back with two residencies: DVine Cellars and Cornercopia. We spoke exclusively to the pop-up master about high expectations for this summer, how it all began for him and just what exactly makes the perfect pop-up.

The Metropolist: How long have you been involved in the pop-up restaurant culture and how did you get involved?

Jimmy Garcia: My first ever pop-up was 19th February 2011! So been doing it nearly four years now, having previously been a chef on super yachts and luxury chalets. I finished university and found myself working as a broker, and hated it! So as a bit of fun, I transformed my front room into a 25-seat restaurant, borrowed the tables and chairs from a local church, put 100 scrolls through neighbour’s doors, had my housemates waitressing, and the rest is history.

TM: In your opinion, what makes a successful pop-up?

JG: I think it’s a combination of a few things: 1. the food 2. the concept 3. the atmosphere and 4. the location. Often these can help each other out, so a really cool location can help to create an awesome atmosphere and concept, or a concept could be led by the food, which if well executed can make for an awesome atmosphere. In my opinion, it’s all about communal tables, relaxed service, and allowing us to serve food that we’re passionate about.

TM: How do you come up with the ideas for your menus?

JG: I try to eat out as much as possible, and am really lucky to have an amazing group of veg, meat and fish suppliers at the moment, meaning I’m led by what’s fresh as it comes in. That’s the benefit of being able to constantly change the menu. It keeps it fun for us too.

TM: What can diners expect from the Seven Plates of Summer?

JG: It’s been all about really fresh, summery produce and flavours. Simple, elegant, and well executed two veg, two meat, two fish, and one dessert dishes.

TM: Burgers and Bordeaux seems straightforward enough in what’s involved, but what more can you tell us?

JG: So the burgers are duck or lobster. Minced Gressingham duck breast from arguably London’s best butcher, Moen’s. We then put a stack of sauteed wild mushrooms, truffle cured beetroot, gruyere cheese, and orange and Earl Grey chutney on there! We serve the lobster burger with a warm thermidore sauce, both in a brioche bun.

Starters on the night are an applewood smoked wild mushroom and truffle mac and cheese with a poached duck egg, and dessert is our ‘homemade ice cream factory’ – three scoops of ice cream (e.g nutella, strawberry and vanilla) and lots of toppings in jam jars in the middle of each table to top up.

TM: On Fridays and Saturdays there’s a 5-course set menu, what can we expect on that?

JG: That’s all about provenance, so we have two choices for each course, and all of the ingredients are sourced with care with a story, for example:

Trio of canapes- e.g. Chicken lollipops stuffed with chorizo from my grandma’s village in spain!

Starter- Hand dived Dorset scallops, maple pancetta, dried scallop roe, cauliflower puree, walnut crumb
or
Heritage tomato salad, Neal’s Yard goat curd, jubilee tomato gaspacho, basil oil

Surprise course- wild Surrey rabbit ragu

Main-
Pork and Apples- Old spot Gloucester pork, crispy pigs ear, braised belly, loin ballotine, apple puree from our city garden, baby veg, cider jus

Dessert- Chocolate and berries: chocolate brownie, marshmallow, Clapham honey comb, raspberry coulis, strawberry sorbet

We do some huge events at the moment, from weddings to summer parties and we use the pop-up as a way to show people what we can do on an event scale at an affordable price.

TM: What made you choose the DVine Cellars and Cornercopia for your venues?

JG: DVine Cellars is amazing, I’ve worked with Greg, the owner on some events, and I’ve done one night pop-ups in other wine shops a few times, so when I saw the space I thought it was perfect. We’ve put a kitchen in the back of the room, and created an awesome atmsophere down there, it’s what a pop-up is all about.

Cornercopia was offered to me a while ago for a temp residency, and it’s been great fun to be a part of the Brixton vibe, but we’ve got to put that on hold for a while now, as we are in the middle of wedding and event season with over 19 weddings booked, two crew catering contracts at V Festival and Henley, and some corporate summer parties for 500, not to mention a four-day event in a chateau in the Loire – we’re going to be busy bees! We’re loving what we’re doign at the moment. Oh, and I’ve got a cook book released in spring next year!

TM: Did you feel any pressure to live up to the roaring success of last year’s three month sell out?

JG: A bit I suppose, but I just want to keep showing people my food is constantly evolving, which is part of the fun. Nothing wrong with a bit of pressure, although I put more pressure on myself too much to have to worry about other people putting pressure on me!

TM: Of all the dishes you’re currently serving, which is your personal favourite?

JG: We did a cool new surprise course recently which I’m still tweaking a little, but enjoying it a lot. Tuna tartare, coriander and lime viege, red pepper emulsion, wasabi mayo, cola and soy reduction, and micro pak choi.

I’ve just had confirmation we’ll be opening a place for six months in Balham from mid October too! Fondues and hot toddies, and lots of game coming up. We’ve got set designers coming to turn the place into an alpine lodge, so watch this space.

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