Last week I was invited to a pop-up dinner here in Bogotá. A good friend of mine--okay--the connection is too cool so I have to tell you: Jennie, the co-founder of Chusco, is the best friend and college roommate of a dear friend from my study abroad program in Málaga, Spain. My ex-roomie here in Bogotá was also in the same study abroad program with me (and was also at the Chusco Pop-Up Dinner). Now, to make the world just a little bit smaller, only 9 people were in this study abroad program in Málaga that year. Bam!
I met Jennie when she moved to Bogotá last year through the Málaga connection. She is a gentle soul and a renaissance woman. She is an artist (she and her Chusco partner hand-painted every single menu!), a chef, an MBA grad and can speak English (duh), Portuguese, French and Spanish. In summary, she is a total rock star and now starting pop-up dinners here in Bogotá.
Jennie and her partner Paula co-founded Chusco and hosted their pilot last week. It was intimate, delicious and unlike anything I've ever experienced before in Colombia. I was curious to know how they got started so I sat Ms. Jennie down to ask her a few questions:
Tell us about Chusco. What does ‘Chusco’ mean?
Well, the word ‘chusco’ is Bogotá slang for ‘cool,’ but it’s not used as often today as it was in the past. (Maybe it’s the equivalent of ‘groovy’ in American English?) For us, that’s exactly what Chusco is – an experience that is kind of retro and is somewhat lost within our generation: the act of sitting down and sharing a great meal among friends, and friends of friends. Chusco is like a cool little community of people in Bogotá who love good food and wine, and are eager to enjoy both in new spaces!
This if the first I’ve ever heard of a pop-up dinner in Bogotá. What inspired you to start one?
I love the idea of pop-up dinners. There’s just something so special about it – it’s exciting, intimate, unique and (by definition) fleeting. For someone like me, it’s also an incredible opportunity to create an entire restaurant experience and to be able to try out new recipes and concepts on a diverse group of people.
I lived in Paris before moving to Bogotá, where a friend of mine and I used to do weekly pop-up lunches and host dinner parties in our tiny apartments. That is actually where I met my partner in Chusco, Paula, who is an amazing artist and also a food lover. We kept in touch ever since and when she moved back to Bogotá a couple of months ago, we decided to try out the idea in Colombia and hit the ground running!
Especially in Bogotá, we want to explore all of the exciting possibilities that the pop-up has to offer: first of all, to invite people out of their comfort zones to try something new in a city that sometimes feels limited to familiar places and faces; and secondly, to push the boundaries of what a temporary restaurant can be. We are looking at all types of spaces to be decontextualized: bakeries, galleries, theaters, museums and even hand-crafted environments like fort installations. We are really excited for what’s to come!
What is on the menu?
The menu for the first Chusco pop-up was inspired by a wave of warm weather here in Bogotá, which ended abruptly and was replaced by a string of chilly days and hailstorms. To honor the city’s ever-changing climate, we created a menu of contrasts: of sweet and savory, warm and cold, rich and citric! The main dish is my twist on Moqueca, a Brazilian classic that originates from the African influences of the northern state of Bahia. With a base of coconut milk and hints of ginger, sautéed peppers and garlic, and fresh cilantro, this fish stew makes for a wonderful balance of sweet, spicy and savory flavors. It's also a dish that is best served family style, which is our favorite way to enjoy a good meal!
What do you want your invitees to experience/feel/enjoy?
The best that we could hope for is that our guests feel as if they’re at an amazing dinner party, where each person has been especially invited because he or she makes a great addition to the group. We want them to relish in the flavors, the details and the conversation, to be comforted and stimulated by what they’re eating and by the space that they’re in. For a brief lapse of time, we hope that the bustle of the city outside disappears and that our guests can savor a delicious meal and interactive experience created just for them.
Thanks so much Jennie and Paula for the awesome meal and fun pop-up dinner experience. For more information about Chusco or to put your name on the guest list for the next pop-up, email Jennie and Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder, Azulina Ceramics