LOVENorfolk: Local Organic Vegetarian-forward Eatery

The chefs behind LOVENorfolkTaking a break at the kitchen island, Andrea Fisher unclipped the wooden clothespins that kept her sleeves from dangling in raw ingredients. Allan Fisher continued chopping at a cutting board, sending a cool, herbaceous scent through the air.

The chefs, a married culinary duo, are used to cooking side by side. And after spending the past five years as the private chefs for a well-traveled New England family, they’re no strangers to hopping from one kitchen to the next.

That experience was preparation for their latest endeavor, pop-up restaurants, which at times calls for a little bit of the unorthodox, all for a single day open for business.

Last week they were testing a spice rub for the cauliflower shawarma in Andrea’s sister’s kitchen. This week they were in the back of Bite, a friend’s restaurant, making sauces. The microgreens for one of their dishes are growing in a terrarium at home.

Their legwork culminates Sunday when they take over a restaurant in Ghent. For three hours, the Dog-n-Burger Grille will be transformed into a meatless, street-food-inspired bistro, LOVENorfolk. “LOVE” stands for Local Organic Vegetarian-forward Eatery.

The event is the couple’s second pop-up, a chance to test-market their menu before opening a brick-and-mortar vegetarian restaurant later this year.

“We wanted to make sure the population would support a vegetable-forward restaurant,” Allan said.

But do pop-ups work?

“They’re successful in terms of getting the word out,” Andrea said. “Now, will it make my restaurant a success? I don’t know.”

The National Restaurant Association believes they often act as a safe toe-dip into the industry. The group has suggested pop-ups as a way for new restaurateurs to create buzz and attract investors without spending too much money up front.

The association has also recommended existing restaurants host pop-ups for other start-ups, especially during off-peak times. For the restaurant, it’s similar to having a guest chef run the kitchen for a day, and both parties share in the profits.

Jerry Meltsner, owner of Dog-n-Burger for 30 years, said the Fishers will pay him a fee to cover some of the rent, and the couple is responsible for paying taxes on the income they generate. His restaurant is normally closed on Sundays, so the one-time event won’t interfere with regular business, he said.

Meltsner supports the pop-up concept because it encourages innovation.

“They can kind of recreate the wheel for one day,” he said. “It helps bring new ideas into our community that maybe we wouldn’t get because of all the hurdles you have to go through to open a restaurant.”

For Kevin Ordonez, whose pop-up Alkaline first hit Hampton Roads in 2013, transitioning from a temporary ramen shop to a full-service eatery has given him time to network and find financing on the side. He signed a one-year lease this week with Pendulum Fine Meats to share the Ghent space, officially graduating from a pop-up. He’s open six days a week now.

Alkaline started with a $5,000 loan from a friend and two soft openings in Chesapeake. Then, two years ago, he landed at Pendulum, a whole-animal butcher shop. Both business owners have similar food philosophies, he said, and gained customers from their relationship.

“The goal at first was to be in Pendulum for a limited amount of time,” Ordonez said, “but eventually we realized having Alkaline leave Pendulum would actually be a pretty big mistake.”

His isn’t the only pop-up progressing to the next phase. After 2½ years of pop-ups at various breweries in the area, Cristina Angelo of Waffletina was able to purchase her own building in Park Place.

There, she and her boyfriend, Kristopher Harvey, will run a coffee shop called Mea Culpa and continue selling Angelo’s yeasted waffle sandwiches. They’re working toward a fall opening, Angelo said.

The Fishers see themselves in a similar position within the year. They hope to have a 30- to 40-seat restaurant in Ghent, downtown Norfolk or the arts district, offering vegetarian dishes. Since Andrea’s heart attack five years ago, the two have become passionate about healthy eating and want to share their food in a grander way.

In the countdown to the LOVENorfolk relaunch, they’re keeping a close watch on the number of tickets sold – and buying extra food just in case.

“We’ll be prepared,” Andrea said. “Deep down, I’m still a Jewish mama.”

Elisha Sauers, 757-222-3864, elisha.sauers@pilotonline.com

Source:http://pilotonline.com/entertainment/restaurants/married-chefs-will-take-over-ghent-restaurant-sunday-to-see/article_cf264898-ebf4-5764-a6da-b5625d1ebcbf.html

 

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