If you frequent it, like we do, you might recognize Ryan Fitzgerald’s name from the Philly Startup Leaders listserv.
Fitzgerald, who works with Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners’ portfolio companies by day, recently launched a pop-up supper club called BOKU. When we asked him about himself and why he started this project, here’s what he wrote to us:
I live in the Taqueria Feliz Building on Main Street on the 2nd floor. My name is Ryan Fitzgerald I’m 28 years old. I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning if my face is a little puffy, you’re probably blind because my face is never puffy. I can cook for people. I can serve 20 now. After I remove the chicken from the peanut oil, I let it rest before frying it again. In the kitchen I use a water bath to cook the pork belly, then a bamboo steam basket to steam my buns. Then I apply a sweet chili glaze, which I leave on until I plate the rest of the dish. I always use heritage pork, because commodity pork is cruel and tastes horrible. Then cilantro, then a mirin-brined pickle followed by crushed peanuts with red sugar. There is an idea of BOKU, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real restaurant. Only an entity, something illusory. And though I can host a pop-up, and you can eat my food and enjoy the fruits of my labor, and maybe even pay me for my efforts, I simply… am not… a chef.
Then came the point in the email when he said he was a big Bret Easton Ellis fan.
American Psycho references aside, BOKU is essentially a pop-up restaurant with no set style of food. Korean fried chicken one time, fig and prosciutto pizza the next. Sometimes Fitzgerald cooks, sometimes he gets guest chefs in on the dinners.
The inspiration came, he said, when he was in between jobs and fell into a YouTube rabbit hole where he stumbled upon a Harvard lecture series on food science and modernist cuisine.
“We’re talking hour and a half to two hour deep dives into why food does what it does…reactions, chemistry, formulas—true food geek stuff,” he wrote.
He watched all 13 hours of the series and emerged ready to try all the techniques he had learned. He bought fancy kitchen equipment and even hacked together a sous vide contraption “with some RadioShack goodies and a slow cooker.” After a year of experimenting and friends asking him if he delivered, he decided to open a supper club. (He wasn’t equipped to start a restaurant, he said he realized.)
His big vision is to “open a restaurant/experimental kitchen, operating pop-up style, with a rotating bench of chefs and cooks.” For now, he’s running dinners out of different friends’ houses, using his arsenal of tech tools and apps, like venture-backed dinner party marketplace Feastly, MailChimp and rewards app Belly.