We sat down with Kevin Livingston to talk about his new catering business, The Pop Up Chef. After devoting years to the restaurant industry, Livingston took the lessons he learned and branched out to bring his creativity to catered events. Livingston talks with us about how he got started and what the future has in store.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what made you switch from physical restaurants to a catering business?
A: My name is Kevin Livingston, and I’m a resident of Fairview, TN. I’ve been in the middle TN area since my early 20’s after growing up in Mississippi. I made the switch to launch my chef-for-hire business after working through Covid. I had been in restaurant management for a few years, and I worked through the shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic. After getting the restaurant back open for physical service, I noticed there was a lack of guests but a high volume of to-go orders. After talking with many guests, I found that most were afraid to dine indoors as they didn’t feel comfortable. So the Pop Up Chef was created to bring a restaurant experience in the comfort of the client’s home
Q: What was the most valuable lesson you learned in the industry and how do you incorporate it in what you do now?
A: The most valuable lesson I have learned is listening to the guests. The ones that are regulars tell you what they want and it’s important to listen to them and enact. I incorporate it in my business by being flexible and creating things custom to them.
Q: What is your favorite dish to make?
A: My favorite dish to make would probably be the Apple Cider & Rosemary Pork Tenderloin. It has such incredible flavor, and with the fig chutney it really sets it off
Q: How often do you change the menu?
A: Although I have the set menu, I do customize very easily. My goal is to keep the staples, but add in new selections each season.
Q: Did you also create your cocktail list?
A: My cocktail list is custom to a certain package. I was a bar manager and I spent time as a bartender in the past. When someone books the package with a speciality cocktail, I create it based on a flavor compile desired by the guests. From there, I try to use seasonal ingredients as well as local spirits since Nashville has many distilleries.
Q: Do you have a type of event that you like to cover best?
A: I love any kind of celebration. Whether it’s a birthday or special event. I feel the mood is always different when a client is celebrating something.
Q: How far in advance do customers need to book you?
A: If I have the date available, I am willing to make it happen. I prefer at least a 2-3 day notice for last-minute parties as I need to get all the supplies.
Q: How far do you travel to cater events?
A: I typically only stay in the Nashville/Middle TN area. I have done dates from Nashville to Columbia and all the local areas in between.
Q: Do you plan on opening your own restaurant or are you content with the catering aspect?
A: I can see it down the road, but for now I’m loving this concept. It allows me to “play” restaurant without the major overhead.
Q: What do you want your customers to know about you, your business and your dishes?
A: I want customers to know that when they book The Pop Up Chef, they are getting a dining experience. I have worked in all areas of the restaurant, and I bring all those experiences to the dinner party. Not only am I cooking the food, I’m setting the table, serving the food, and cleaning up. In between each course, I try to visit with the guests if they are wanting that as well.
Learn more about The Pop Up Chef at thepopupchef.net.