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Typically held in a clandestine location with chefs presenting dishes like a DJ serving up bangerz, pop-up events are probably more like an illegal rave than a dining experience.
Tall, charismatic and speaking with a rhythmic Jamaican accent local chef Darian Bryan is perfectly suited to the performance nature of the pop-up. Having cooked at Hutch’s Restaurant and private events for NFL stars, Bryan revels food, camaraderie and showmanship.
After moving to Buffalo from Jamaica in 2012, Bryan started working as a line cook and taking classes in the culinary program at ECC.
“I used to live next door to Hutch’s and I was working at Denny’s at the time. I was like, ‘Man, I want to work at this place,’ cause I saw all those nice cars that pull up and the food smelled amazing,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I was like, ‘This thing’s a big deal over here.’”
He got a job through his chef-instructor at ECC and spent four years climbing the ranks of Hutch’s kitchen. Bryan left to run the kitchen at Prima Cafe in Hamburg, and now works as the executive chef of the kitchen at Fisher-Price.
The Plating Society is Bryan’s pop-up dining, private chef and catering business. Although he grew up in Jamaica, that doesn’t mean you should expect Jamaican food: New Orleans food and traditional French cooking have been featured at previous Plating Society events. The pop-up we were invited to attend at The Fountain in Williamsville featured Bryan with guest chefs Joe Gallo and Audrey Zybala (Sweet Pea Bakery) cooking classic Italian American fare.
At first, the vibe was fun, a bit semi-formal but definitely boozy – with everyone dipping into their BYO wine. As the night wore on, it became a full-on dinner party, with introductions, stories and jokes thickening the air. You might have walked in feeling like you’re about to get a PowerPoint from the company president, but you’re walking out feeling full, happy and just a bit tipsy.
The four-course meal was ostensibly upscale. Wild boar meatballs with polenta and micro greens were hearty, almost entree-like. Pasta fagioli featured a broader spectrum of flavor; the spices and aromatics snapping the palate and brain back to attention after the meatballs and a couple glasses of wine. Braciole with herbed risotto was a rollercoaster of flavors: meaty, salty, nutty, cheesy and herbal. Zybala’s perfectly balanced gelato and biscotti dessert rounded out the meal on a creamy, crunchy note.
All around us, diners were nodding their heads all night in agreement, the food was good.
“If I was home, I’d lick the plate,” said one of our neighbors.
Talking to other guests, we found out that people keep coming back for the food as much as for the presentation and communal dining experience. It was social, yes, but professional connections were undoubtedly made. (Our freelance writer, by the way, may or may not have walked out of the event with a new client.)
“I just love good food and bringing people together,” Byran said during our interview. “That’s what I do best. People always tell me, if it wasn’t for our events, they wouldn’t have met all these new people. Everybody walks in as strangers at the beginning, and before you know it, everybody’s talking to each other and everybody gets to know each other just through food, wine and good conversation.”
The Plating Society