Cahoots pushes the pop-up dinner envelope
From Seinfeld to Canadian Heritage Minutes, to metal music-themed dinners, Cahoots, a local chef collective is pushing the creative envelope when it comes to pop-up style dining.
Brock Unger, chef at Hopscotch Dinner Club, joined forces with Joe Martin, chef at Stillwell Bar, to form Cahoots chef collective in around 2017. Since then, they’ve been doing their best to offer never-before-seen, uniquely themed dinners. Although the word collective implies membership or payment, that’s not what Cahoots is. Cahoots recruits chefs from all over Halifax to cook themed dinners. Any money made is shared equally.
“The main focus when we started was that we needed to get lower ranking cooks and younger people out, and give them a platform to get creative and show their own voice,” explains Unger.
Cahoots has since hosted dozens of dinners all over Halifax and has worked with dozens of chefs from all over Nova Scotia, like Stephane Levac from Annapolis Valley, who participated in a Seinfeld themed night; Zoe Bartel from Tatamagouche participated in the “Under the Big Top” themed dinner and Lauren Campbell from Lawrencetown, who also participated in “Under the Big Top.”
“When we make our roster of who’s going to cook, they already know their theme and we just kind of let them go nuts with it,” says Martin.
Although some critics of pop-up dining describe the experience as hectic and unpredictable, Unger and Martin say the process gets easier for chefs over time, and patrons seem to enjoy the spontaneity of all.
“Everyone makes their own dish, and they prep it all before they get there. Once we get there, there’s always a final few things that each person might need to do, or they might show up totally prepared,” adds Martin. “It’s totally up to everyone’s interpretation. It depends on the person and what they’re cooking.”
At this point, Cahoots has no plans to settle down and find a permanent space. They do however, plan on hosting pop-up dinners in the future.
“I would love to own my own restaurant someday and I would host Cahoots dinners until I die, but Cahoots as an organization, I can’t imagine there ever being a permanent location,” says Unger.
“I think the whole point of it is to be like a gypsy brewer or always a traveling thing. It’s never the same. It’s always a different lineup. It’s always a different theme. It’s always in a different location. It adds to the allure of it,” adds Martin.
“It’s for the cooks. It’s for the little guys. It’s an opportunity for them to put their name and their food out there,” says Unger.
“The kitchen is the heart of this,” adds Martin. “We’re all in Cahoots together.”
Photo Credits: lead image by Jeff Pinhey; second image by Crissie Brenton and Andrew Donovan.