Joel Beauchamp talks Pocket Brunch

Pocket Brunch, a collaborative “nomadic restaurant,” is only a couple events old and it is already getting a ton of attention (my BDN compatriot Emily Burnham profiled them a little over a month ago). The venture, which is a collaboration between Joel Beauchamp, 158 Owners Josh Potocki and Katie Schier Potocki, and Nathaniel Meiklejohn, is gearing up for their third brunch, the tickets to which sold out in just a couple of days.

I have known Beauchamp for years—he co-starred in Food Coma TV, which I produced, and he married my wife and me—and his creativity and passion for whatever he takes on never fails to inspire. I recently caught up with him at Nosh, where he went into detail about how Pocket Brunch came about.

You can find out more about the events, including how to get tickets to upcoming brunches, at their website. Like them on Facebook here.

What is Pocket Brunch?

Pocket Brunch was an idea that Josh Potocki and I came up with. At first we wanted to throw a couple awesome brunches for our friends because while we work together, we don’t get a lot of chances to cook together creatively because we are both so busy. This was a way for us both to cook together and it morphed into an idea about hosting dinner parties with friends to making it available to everybody.

We picked brunch because brunch can be anything, literally anything, from cereal and milk to fried chicken and mac and cheese. It is everything in one meal, so we wouldn’t be restricted. Once Katie got on board with the idea, she brought a lot of business savvy to it and she helped us flesh it out into this nomadic restaurant. We wanted it to be a different place and theme every time, and we want each experience to be unique so here we are with our third bunch coming up on October 7th.

What will be available at that event, or is it something you keep under wraps until people show up?

No one has any idea what the menu is until they get there that morning. We have a basic model, which is five courses each time and the experience is usually 4 hours. This includes an hour of beverages, coffee, pastries and snacks and then five courses, which usually follow the model of soup, salad, egg dish, meat dish and some sort of dessert. The first one we did at my home, and it was a riff on classic brunch. Instead of scrambled eggs, we had an egg custard. Instead of bacon, we had pork belly. Instead of chicken, we had fried frogs legs. The second one we had was at Nosh, which was themed “Curiosity.” We modeled the aesthetic after old laboratories or cabinets of curiosity, so we had little vials that you poured into something else and we had a “Nightshade Elixir” soup, which was tomato water and a little vile of… What was it?

Absinthe?

I wish! No, it was juniper extraction, so it was a lot of weird, interesting, bizarrely plated though delicious items. the one was have coming up is called “Farm Hands” and it takes place at an undisclosed farm. So far, every location is unknown to people until they purchase their tickets and get notice.

What is the significance of not revealing the menu ahead of time?

This was a huge decision for us. On our end, Pocket Brunch is about being creative as possible without someone standing over us and telling us not to do this or that. We didn’t want to attract people who had limitations to what they were interested in eating. We wanted people to know about us by word of mouth about the quality of what we are doing. We do some weird stuff, which is fun. When else do you get to do that? Josh doesn’t get to do weird stuff over at 158.

I don’t mean any disrespect to the communities that have dietary limitations, but there is now an expectation that every food establishment adhere to every limitation. It strikes me that this would create for those preparing menus a mental gauntlet and limit experimentation.

Sure, and if we printed our menu ahead of time, I am sure we’d get confronted with limitations and allergies. We still have people who come who can’t eat one specific thing or another, but that isn’t in our minds when we are preparing the event. We are doing this because we love to cook and we love experimentation and we want to pass that excitement on to people who are willing to blindly take that ride with us.

Who in town do you look up to who is doing something similar in spirit?

I look at Nan’l, who was a huge inspiration. He has this passionate interest in old school cocktails and he loves to have these parties in town where he focuses on very specific old cocktails, old ones that have been revamped. He is interested in making his own bitters. Nolan Stewart is another one who is making his bitters and playing around with stuff like that. Trey Hughes too. All of those guys, who are unearthing these cocktails and applying to them a modern aesthetic, are great.

The guys at Tandem Coffee are awesome. They have taken a chance moving up here. They have a very specific vision for what they do. The coffee that they do is unlike anyone else in town, and do they’re not trying to edge anybody out. We have also been partners on Pocket Brunch, so they will be partners in the next one.

How has Pocket Brunch been received thus far?

Amazingly. We started out promoting our first event by email blasting about a hundred friends and we sold out thirty tickets in less than 24 hours and we sold out of the second and third ones quickly as well. We envisioned the first few as being mostly friends, but a third of the crowd were people we didn’t know. The second one was about half people we didn’t know. It is great, as it made us step up our game. This isn’t to say we didn’t take the first one seriously…

Getting naked in front of your friends, so to speak, is a lot easier than getting naked in front of strangers.

Totally. It makes you step everything up a little bit.

PHOTO CREDIT: Zack Bowen

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.