The food is bold and experimental, the kitchen is hectic and frenetic, the chef banter is full of sarcasm and quick wit and the menu comes from a dash of planning and a heavy dose of improv. Welcome to a night at the Nata Gallery, home of SLC POP. 13% SALT gained access to head chef Katie Weinner’s modernist pop-up restaurant, SLC POP, to capture this behind-the-scenes photo essay. You’ll see prepping and stressing, food pampering and posing, excellent delivery and delicious execution.
On the outside, Nata Gallery (29 E. 400 South) looks like your typical art house, however it’s never open, because it’s a play on words—“not a gallery.” The restaurant, if you could call it that, seats 14 people or less for eclectic multi-course dinners, which are composed with principles of molecular gastronomy and neo-contemporary American/international cuisine. The dishes toter the line between classic and refined, playful and chaotic. It’s an interactive dining experience on sporadic Saturdays with no menu choices and where you never get the same meal twice.
The visually-entertaining gourmet fare is made in a kitchen that’s without a stove, rather it consists of three Coleman burners, a small easy bake oven, crock pots and an ISI whipped-cream dispenser. “This small workshop tucked away in the back of the gallery was full of challenges but huge in potential to create our food,” Weinner says. “It’s a workshop of edible possibilities where ideas have space to cook.”
Weinner launched SLC POP April 2012. Prior, she was the Head Development Chef for the Mist Project—one of the most talked about local food projects of 2012—and is an instructor at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City, where she also runs the student restaurant, the Savory Palate. Weinner's SLC POP landed at Nata Gallery November 2012, and she just celebrated its one-year anniversary at the pop-up space.
Pop-up restaurants have gained popularity over the past decade with chefs who want to face the challenges of operating in a new space to deliver five-star food in innovative ways. While often found in major metropolitan areas throughout America, SLC POP is unique to Utah. And in true fashion of change and challenge, SLC POP’s lease ends April 2014, and Weinner hasn’t decided what she’ll do next.
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.