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Wine & Dine
January 12, 2017

How This All-Star Chef Is Building 20 Pop-Up Restaurants In 20 Countries

Text by Natasha Sahjwani

“Imagine landing in a city you’ve never been to before with a sold out restaurant to open in 3 weeks and having to find somewhere to make that happen.”

All it takes is a little bit of courage to whip up something extraordinary. Which is exactly what this top chef had in mind. The former Noma and Tom Aikens protégé, James Sharman ventured out of the ordinary, gathered four of his friends to build a series of pop-up restaurants around the world. Kickstarting this initiative in his own apartment and then setting off on a journey across the United States, the team has served people in the most innovative spaces, even their bathtubs and beds.

Travelling to 20 countries in 20 months, One Star House Party creates a culinary affair like no other, with a 5-day pop-up inviting guests to indulge in the flavours of their country. From building a menu on local ingredients to setting up sold-out restaurant in three weeks, the team has served in Beijing, Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Everest Base Camp and now Mumbai being 5th on their list. The 25-year-old chef talks about his experience setting up the Mumbai leg of their culinary tour.

On preparing a menu for a new country
“The trick is to meet people and understand as much as we can. New techniques and ingredients are essentials tools, but the people who show them to us and the experience we have discovering them is what makes our menus so much fun to write and cook!”

On his most exciting country for a pop-up
“Each country shines out in different ways. China was definitely the most surprising with dynamic raw ingredients once you delved a little deeper. Vietnam taught us the most about different ways to approach ingredients altogether. Nepal was all about adapting and working against the odds.”

On creating a restaurant at the Mt Everest base camp
“We hiked with 15 guests and six porters to build a restaurant at the Everest Base Camp. Nepalese food is an elusive cuisine to learn about. We started off with the framework of a menu in Kathmandu, then made revisions as we trekked through villages. On the morning of our pop-up, we hiked with three tables and 25 chairs for two-and-a-half hours, along with all the ingredients. It was the most challenging but rewarding thing any of us has ever done.”

On choosing Airbnb to start his pop-up restaurants
“Building our restaurants in the Airbnbs of New York city and San Francisco allowed us to create a pop-up restaurant with genuine character and soul. That being said, the restaurants we build aren’t always in Airbnbs. We’re essentially a bunch of chefs moving from one country to the next, making the most out of anything we can get our hands on. We’ve gone to the extent of borrowing our friends’ furniture showrooms and bagel shops. I suppose we wanted to see if our restaurant could exist almost anywhere.”

The menu in Mumbai
“I like to think of our prospective diners, finishing work in the evening before they come to dine with us, anticipating their meal in much the same way as eating at a friend’s place.”

On training at restaurants like Noma and Tom Aikens
“We still work and cook in the same way. The techniques we learnt at those restaurants are now applied to a new world of food each month, and are the framework of our menu. The methodical approach to any task is what allows us to move at the speed we do.”

One ingredient you love playing with…
“Freshly picked spices that haven’t dried completely. They are near impossible to get hold of, but if you can, it’s like discovering a new category of food that’s been under your nose this whole time. Peppercorns become pungent berries, seeds and roots become versatile vegetables.”

The one thing you love about India
“The food in India is shaped by the people who make it. The food in India changes every 10 km. This is because locals develop an inherent sense of pride in their recipes, amassing cherished tips and tricks that are passed through generations.”

Check out their journey making the highest pop-up in the world:

One Star House Party will be taking place in Mumbai from 17th to 21st January, 2017. Check out the initiative and where they will be heading to next here.

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