If a want ad for an aspiring chef were honest, it would read, “Cook needed. Low pay, long hours, brutal conditions. Fame highly unlikely.” Now let’s say it read, “Cook needed. Decent pay, you set the hours, you create the conditions. Adoration commensurate with execution.” In that case, that’s an ad for a chef at a pop-up restaurant, and the job is already Jeremy Brewington’s.
“Pop-ups are the perfect combination of my experiences,” Brewington says. “From catering and private cheffing, I know how to make things happen in a place that’s not mine, and from travel and research I can be creative.” That’s precisely why Dodo’s Kim Dalton tapped him to bring pop-ups to her brunch spot. During Dodo’s Damen Avenue days, Brewington was brought in to launch dinner, but after that iteration of Dodo closed in 2007, the Minneapolis native took a job as the private chef for the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at the Illinois Institute of Technology (yes, IIT has frats). “I didn’t know much about fraternities when I started, but now I feel like family,” Brewington says. “I can’t imagine any chef disliking this job. Good pay, good hours and complete freedom in summer to pursue other projects.”
That includes pop-ups, which Brewington launched in early June at the new Dodo on Fulton Market with “Quincho & Botequim,” where he served Argentinian and Brazilian snacks (salt cod fritters; empanadas) alongside Quinones and Brana beer. He spent the following two weeks researching his latest incarnation, Potjiekos Café, named for a type of cast-iron pot common in South Africa. “There are Dutch, British, Indian, you-name-it influences [in South African food], and there’s really no representation in Chicago,” he says. Grilled meats (known as braai), jerkylike beef strips (biltong), spicy babotie custard casserole, umfino greens braised with ground peanuts and fresh ginger…as word of these dishes spread, the Wednesday-through-Saturday pop-up grew so popular that even a busted A/C—which gave Dodo Kalahari-like conditions—couldn’t keep diners, particularly South African ones, away. And so Potjiekos has been extended through August 13th. After that, Brewington’s frat-chef gig starts. But he’s confident this won’t be the end of his pop-up career. “This is the perfect idea for a restless person,” he says. “Yes, it’s a flash in the pan, but that’s the point: Execute good food for a very precise moment, and then you move on.”
Dodo, 954 W Fulton Mkt (312-226-5300).