Anyone who has ever went drinking with friends has probably stumbled across this exact scenario: someone posits a “wouldn’t it be cool if …” idea to which everyone commits to.
For most people, the excitement of the idea only lasts until the next round, but the creators of Chefame aren’t most people.
Indy Hall co-founder Bart Mroz, Srcasm‘s Jesse Middleton, musician Louis Brice and corporate finance worker Evan Kaplowitz have put their heads together to combine their love of food and karaoke to create an open-mic night for chefs.
Open Chefame (pronounced “Chef-A-Me“) does to food what karaoke does to music. The event takes an amateur chef, and gives them the kitchen of a local restaurant for a night to cook whatever they wish. The amateur chef serves a meal to attendees who are free to comment, praise, critique and heckle the work of the amateur. It may sound like a new reality show on the Food Network, but the pie-in-the-sky idea that began as a joke among friends four weeks ago has since blossomed into a sold out event.
While you won’t be able to attend tonight’s Open Chefame at Langostini Restaurant, the group has ambitious plans about upcoming Open Chefame events. It may seem unusual for two members of the city’s tech industry to spearhead a food event, but Middleton says that the tech audience is the perfect fit for something like Open Chefame. Many techies spend all day in front of a computer consuming nothing but a few cups of coffee, and Monday nights are usually lacking technology-related events.
“There is so much in the tech scene, but everybody has to eat,” said Middleton. “So why not provide a place that’s a little more fun? It’s an escape from the norm.”
After coming up with the idea, Middleton said the group floated the idea to friends on Twitter and on their blogs and got a positive response.
“We wanted to share it with people to see what they thought, and we happened to share it with the right people,” said Middleton. “We heard replies like ‘I have a friend who owns a restaurant,’ and somebody else said ‘I have a brewery that can sponsor beer’. One thing just fell in place with the next.”
The response thus far has been beyond the group’s expectations. Even before a location was set or a chef was selected, the group had requests for tickets.
“We had like 20 people who were like ‘When can I give you my money?’ and we didn’t even pick a price yet,” said Middleton. At first, Langostini Restaurant was worried if Chefame would fill all of the 40 slots available. Now, the group is looking for a venue twice the size for next month’s event.
The group is aiming to keep it simple tonight, but more ambitious plans are in the works for future amateur chef nights. They hope to use Middleton’s younger brother and Louis Brice’s contacts to help coordinate musical entertainment. The group has been approached by the emcee of the Laff House. There may even be Iron Chef-style compositions down the road.
For now, the group is focused on the first event, where Mroz, who has experience cooking for his parents’ catering company, will be cooking some dishes from his native Poland. The group is placing a high priority on feedback from the community to make their next set of choices about Open Chefame.
“We want to build this the way the community likes to see it,” said Middleton, “we want to grow something that’s much bigger than it is now.”
Every Monday, Technically Not Tech will feature people, projects, and businesses that are involved with Phillyï¿½s tech scene, but arenï¿½t necessarily technology focused. See others here.