Restaurant pop-up series celebrates Black entrepreneurs
It’s no secret that those in the restaurant industry are still fighting to stay in business.
However, one Brooklyn chef and restaurant owner inspired by the current social justice movement is handing over the keys and platform of his successful restaurant for Black entrepreneurs to take over.
Maison Yaki is one of Chef Greg Baxtrom’s two restaurants on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights. It’s been unused since COVID shutdowns took place.
"I have this space across the street that we just haven't gotten to yet. We're still we're still trying to save the first one," Chef Baxtrom said. "I just figured, why not offer it up to Black entrepreneurs that just don't have a platform?"
Chef Baxtrom then hand-selected four Black chefs to take over Maison Yaki and each serve their own food for two weeks at a time as a pop-up series.
Jared Howard of Honey Bunny’s Chicken was surprised and grateful to be one of them. News 12 caught up with him while he was in the midst of his two-week residency at Maison Yaki.
"This is my first time running a pop-up, this is my first time running a kitchen, this is the first time I'm highlighting a menu, and building it from scratch," Howard said. "Greg and the team at Olmsted here have been instrumental in bringing me along the way, showing me the ropes, and providing support where I needed it."
The platform gave Howard the opportunity to showcase his Maryland- and Southern-inspired cuisine, and it has been a big hit. There have been lines down the block of people wanting to get their hands on his signature chicken biscuit and other delicious offerings.
"People have been very, very excited. Brooklyn has embraced this restaurant concept," Howard said. "Hopefully, with a little bit of luck and a couple more pop-ups, we'll be able to turn this into a brick-and-mortar and be able to offer it to New York City."
Chef Baxtrom’s intention with launching these pop-ups was to not only allow the participating entrepreneurs an opportunity to make money, but also give them exposure and resources to continue their success.
Lani Halliday was the first chef to take over Maison Yaki in the pop-up series.
"When I was running the pop-up, there was a lot of exposure. There was a lot of buzz, there was all this positive response," Halliday said.
Halliday, a Brooklyn-based food artist, baker, and owner of Brutus Bakeshop, is known for her gorgeous gluten-free and vegan baked goods.
"I kind of try to center what I offer around like inclusivity, celebration, nourishment and joy," Halliday said.
She hopes the pop-up will be a turning point for her and her business.
"I've been working very, very hard for a very, very long time," Halliday said. "Getting to see the work that I've done and the path that I've forged begin to bear fruit in the form of wider recognition and a further reach is pretty fantastic."
Those involved say the opportunity has been huge, and goes to show how giving back can make such a big impact.
Howard said, "I won't forget, and if [Honey Bunny's Chicken] continues to be successful, trust and believe I will pay it forward. This is this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it should be shared with others. I think that's really what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about, is expanding the opportunity for everybody, and helping everybody out."
"There is always something that one can do to impact even one person, and that is more important than nothing, right?" Halliday said.
Chef Baxtrom hopes to extend the pop-up series through the rest of the year, but says they need to secure more sponsorships to keep it running smoothly.