“Are we crazy?”
That’s the question I asked my general manager this morning.
“Are we going to be able to pull this off?” I continued. “Has anyone ever moved two restaurants to another city and set up operations in a museum to benefit two non-profits?” Maybe so, but if it’s happened over the course of my 30-year restaurant career, I haven’t heard of it.
What started as a discussion in my office last spring about helping the non-profit Extra Table raise funds, morphed into a discussion of the pop-up restaurant craze, and then veered into a discussion about moving two of our restaurants to Jackson for four days.
Excitement and energy filled the room during those initial discussions and continued in the following weeks during the planning phase. It hasn’t been until recently that reality has raised its pragmatic head and someone asked, “Are we crazy?”
So here’s the deal: Purple Parrot Café is setting up shop in the Mississippi Museum of Art September 9-12 and offering a five-course menu, two seatings per night. All of the proceeds will benefit Extra Table— a non-profit that helps supply Mississippi’s mission pantries and soup kitchens with healthy food. The Crescent City Grill will be serving a jazz brunch from 11a.m.- 2p.m. during those days with all of the proceeds benefitting the Mississippi Museum of Art.
Moving an entire restaurant to another city and setting up shop for a few days is a arduous task. But the level of difficulty increases by more than twofold when one moves two restaurants at the same time. It is made harder still if one plans to keep the two home-base restaurants open while relocating. We will. Our company employs 150 people. All of them will be working simultaneously— either in Hattiesburg or Jackson— during those four days.
We have worked off site, often. Though usually for cooking demos or catered dinners. Complete dinner service for two seatings on four nights, and brunch during the day is an entirely different animal.
The Mississippi Museum of Art has excellent cooking and prep facilities and their staff— who is usually off on Sunday and Monday— has been overwhelmingly accommodating.
I will be working the kitchen during lunch serving up a greatest hits menu from the Crescent City Grill. We will be serving longtime favorites such as corn and crab bisque, blackened redfish with jumbo lump crabmeat, Gumbo Ya-Ya, shrimp and grits, white chocolate bread pudding, along with salads and a few sandwiches.
At night, Chef Jeremy Noffke— Mississippi’s best-kept culinary secret— has designed a five-course menu that is unmatched in this region. Seriously, people are going to be blown away with this dinner. Both menus can be viewed at www.robertstjohn.com
Jeremy Noffke started at the Crescent City Grill as a busboy in 1997. He quickly moved into the kitchen and worked full-time while attending the University of Southern Mississippi. Some people are born with a talent, some develop it after years of practice. Noffke falls somewhere in between. His knack for flavor dynamics is second to none. He has “touch” which is a highly underrated kitchen skill these days. He has honed his craft over the last decade in the Parrot kitchen, and the five-course menu he has designed for this event would be right at home in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco.
Likewise, Purple Parrot Café general manager and sommelier, Dusty Frierson, has created a wine pairing that befits the meal.
Many questions remain. Will we be able to execute in the Mississippi Museum of Art’s kitchen? Will the Jackson citizenry turn out to support these two worthy causes? Will we fall flat on our face? To find out, you’ll have to attend.
Reservations are being taken for the Purple Parrot’s two dinner seatings (6p.m. and 8:30p.m.— don’t worry you’ll be home by Leno or Letterman), but they are filling up fast. If you are interested in a first-rate dining experience for a more-than worthy cause, call the Mississippi Museum of Art for reservations 601-960-1515. The Crescent City Grill Jazz Brunch from 11a.m – 2p.m. is set up on an open seating, first-come first-served basis.
“When are you going to open a restaurant in Jackson?” That is a question I have been asked the entirety of my restaurant career. I now have an answer: September 9th-12th.