Having just announced his new BBQ Club, we caught up with the King of Pop-Ups, Jimmy Garcia, to find out his secret tips for a good pop-up, his most memorable moments and what happened live on Sunday Brunch.
What drew you to pop-ups?
Having worked as a chef throughout school and college as well as on yachts in the summers between university, I ended up hating my job as a broker in the city. I really missed cooking for people and after reading about a guy in North London turning his home into a restaurant I thought f**k it, let’s give it go. I put 100 scrolls through neighbour’s doors and struck a deal with the local church to borrow furniture, crockery and cutlery then persuaded my housemates to waiter.
It was a great success where we eventually had 24 people a month coming to enjoy a five-course meal who usually ended up dancing on the tables until 4am, having a really good time!
I loved going against the grain and doing something completely different. We were one of the first when we started in February 2011 and we’ve continued surprising people ever since!
Your known as the king of pop-ups, what is the secret to a good pop-up?
The secret to a good pop-up to me is the core to any great night out – amazing food that exceeds expectations of the unique and exceptional environment they’re in. And, of course, plenty of damn good booze!
Why do you think pop-ups are so popular in London?
Londoners are looking for more than just conventional dining. London is a creative city and our dining habits are testament to that. It’s not just about the food that’s eaten any more, it’s now about the environment, staff and the element of surprise. Pop-ups can deliver all of those components for a limited period but in a more dynamic way. Social media as a marketing platform has been incredibly effective for pop-up operations as it allows trends to develop faster than they previously could.
How do you come up with the ideas?
Most of my ideas are inspired from various trips and adventures across the globe. The Lodge was inspired by my time as a seasonnaire in Courchevel as I thought there was a real appetite for après ski style fun in London. The BBQ club idea came from a visit to a table top BBQ experience at a restaurant in the Alps which was disappointing! As a fan of Korean BBQ I thought we could their principle of interactive dining but elevate it to a much higher level by providing diners with flavour combinations that are delicious and modern rather than a DIY-BBQ gimmick!
Have there been any notable pop-ups which you wish you had created?
I recently went to a pop-up called Native which I know now is permanent. I’m happy with my repertoire of pop-ups but really pleased to see the pop-up movement is enjoying lots of success as there is always room for good ideas done by passionate people!
When you’re not working where do you like to go out in London?
I love going to watch Dulwich Hamlet FC, the best nonleague team this side of Watford! I also love going out for a roast in my local Tooting – never liked straying too far from home on a Sunday.
What has been your most memorable moment running pop-ups?
Over the past 6 years there’s definitely been a few. The Lodge closing party celebrating two years of sell-out success was mental, and it’s as close as I’ve ever come to actually drinking a bar dry. My first ever pop-ups often ended with the guests chanting a version of ‘who let the chef out’. We also had a pop-up next to the Olympic Park and the closing ceremony fireworks were going off as we were hosting our final dinner with the street full of people. It was an emotional one!
And any disasters or comedy moments?
I think best comedy moment would have to be setting my resting board on fire live on Sunday Brunch! That was a close one…
What are your tips for hosting a good party?
A happy host – a stressed out host can bring the wrong vibe to the party so make sure you work within your means. I would also say good that’s meant for sharing, good music and lots of liquor, that’s how we like to do it in the Garcia household anyway!
What does the future hold?
The immediate future holds something very exciting! We’re launching The BBQ Club at the Southbank which will include an upstairs BBQ Club tasting menu where guests can baste and grill dishes alongside their chef on their very own BBQ built into the centre of the table. It’ll take place on a shipping container alongside the Thames so with that winning London sunset and Spanish gin in hand it’ll be a fantastic foodie experience. Downstairs is more casual with grab-and-go steak and monkfish burgers straight from the BBQ. I’m so excited for the launch!
Alongside that we’ve got another busy calendar of events including 30 weddings and a host of exciting corporate events around Europe! The summer will see us catering in Chateau’s just outside Paris, on the beach in Cannes for Facebook, a wedding in St Tropez as well as providing all the crew and artist catering at Glastonbury, Henley and Boardmasters this year. We’ve also found a brand new home for the fourth year of The Lodge – lots of exciting things coming up!
The BBQ Club at Southbank Centre launches on Saturday 20th May 2017