The latest pop-up dining experience will arrive in Baton Rouge this weekend with a team-up between Doug Hosford of Fat Cow Burgers and Chef Tom Ramsey of Stäge, a pop-up dinner concept that experiments with dishes to create delicacies outside of the norm. The dinner will be held on Saturday, Feb. 20 at Simple Joe Café at 3057 Government St.
Ramsey is a chef, sommelier, restaurateur, writer and media personality living in Jackson, Mississippi. As the founder of Stäge, he travels and works with chefs around the country. For 13 years, Ramsey worked as an investment banker, but about six years ago, after doing some soul searching on what he really wanted to do, he decided to start cooking professionally.
“It’s something I played with before, but never really took that full leap,” said Ramsey.
While pursuing his new passion, Ramsey met Hosford at the Natchez Food and Wine Festival five years ago and had stayed in touch ever since. When Ramsey decided it was time to bring his pop-up series to Baton Rouge, Hosford was the first person he thought of.
Titled as Stäge Comfort Food, the event will begin with cocktails at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. with a meet-and-greet with the chefs after dinner. Tickets cost $100 and are available at stagebr-comfortfood.eventbrite.com.
The allure of pop-up dinners, according to Ramsey, is that “you’re getting a meal that’s unique, timely and something that has to be experienced right now.”
“I think it’s reflective of a lot of things you’ve seen across the country right now,” said Ramsey. “Right now the world’s largest retailer is Amazon, and they don’t own any stores. The largest hotel retailer in the world is AirBnB, and they don’t own any hotels. The largest taxi service is Uber, and they don’t own any cars.”
The word “stäge” is a French term for an aspiring chef who undergoes in an established restaurant to learn under a professional chef. Ramsey’s company is based on that concept with him going into other people’s kitchens to learn.
According to Ramsey, the menus at Stäge are always collaborative. Ramsey and Hosford sat down and created the concept for their pop-up dinner, featuring comfort foods and exactly how they wanted the comfort foods to come together to put a new spin on the familiar.
“It’s that time of the year, it’s still cold outside, and people think of comfort food as something that’s not elegant or something that’s not refined,” said Ramsey.
For those who think they will won’t receive hearty soups or warm mac and cheese as part of the menu, fear not. According to Ramsey, there will be elements of people’s favorite comfort foods in each of the dishes.
“There are very elegant and refined ways to do comfort food and so we want to take food that most people are familiar with and show it to them in a way that’s unexpected or something new,” said Ramsey. “We like to play with our food.”
The menu includes a grilled oyster amuse-bouche with goat cheese and Vidalia onion soubise, followed by a Creole crawfish bouillabaisse. A thin-fried catfish and roasted rock hen will be served, along with a beef dish featuring a meatloaf “sandwich” with a mac and cheese spread. Dessert will be a king cake bread pudding with spiced rum reduction.
“We like to look at each dinner as a reflection of the town where we’re going, the chef we’re cooking with and the chef that’s traveling there,” said Ramsey. “When we take all the elements around us and make it into one dinner for one night for a limited number of people, that’s what makes it exciting for us to cook and we hope it’s that exciting for the people to dine.”
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Photo courtesy of Tom Ramsey