For Design Anthology's Issue 10, I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with with inspired chef / traveler, James Michael Sharman about his latest culinary venture, One Star House Party, reshaping the idea of the (now ubiquitous) 'pop-up' restaurant. James and his nimble team are developing a contemporary model for sharing ingredients, stories and cultural traditions through culinary expression. What struck me most in our conversation was how often we came back to talking about people, about the relationships they formed in different places (for their San Francisco pop up, people donated beehives and lemon trees) and how the relationships that blossomed along the way fueled the energy of this adventure. I can only look forward to more ingredients and more stories from this very special group.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Ingredients are a language; where they are from and how they are used gives chefs the power to let us travel via our plates. As well, the importance of place for chefs is central, though it can mean very different things. For some, place is rigorous and confined: defined by the walls of the restaurants they work in and the relationship to ingredients defined by a list on a clipboard. For others, place influences a whole gastronomic language and creative process. The increasing importance of provenance, and curiosity towards native ingredients, have made places and their cultures a defining part of the creative process and expanded the geography of the palate. This thread continues to run through gastronomic culture.
In recent years many chefs have continued the tradition of ‘staging’ in different restaurants by turning to pop-ups as a way of showcasing their talents without the crippling costs of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. Few, however, are willing to relocate every month, let alone build their own tables and chairs if necessary. James Sharman of One Star House Party is one of those few — and Taipei was a recent canvas. Sharman and his hugely talented team are taking the pop-up dining experience to a whole new level. Think unusual spaces in some of the world’s most exciting cities, overseen by world-class chefs who have learned how to sharpen their knives in the kitchens of masters. To attend one of their dinners is to find yourself at the intersection of cuisine, travel and culture in perfect proportions. A blend of skill and passion gives the whole experience the air of an established clubhouse for thoughtful and curious diners.
The idea is deceptively simple — the execution, anything but. Whether travelling with suitcases full of beetroot or using an RV kitchen to prep ingredients while driving cross-country, One Star House Party is shaping a new model — part commune, part moveable feast — for sharing cultural traditions through culinary expression. Sharman and his skilful team select a destination they’d like to explore for its culture and ingredients; though, as he puts it, ultimately ‘we will end up going everywhere anyway’. Arriving on the ground, the first task is one of immersion — in the place, its people, tastes, textures and experiences. This helps to develop a menu that reflects the team’s discoveries and encounters.