Pop-up dinners bring community together over cross-cultural culinary creativity

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BOZEMAN – The only thing generic about The Food Studio, a Bozeman-based catering company, is the business park that houses their operation.

While their focus is private events—with a good deal of business coming from the Yellowstone Club—occasionally the chefs at The Food Studio will share their culinary creativity with the general public. Such was the case for a special, 12-course Cinco de Mayo dinner held at their kitchen/event space earlier this month.

The soundtrack from “Buena Vista Social Club” greeted the 30-odd guests as they trickled in, as did an horchata-rum cocktail sprinkled with nutmeg and a crispy corn fritter amuse bouche.

Eventually diners found their seats at two long, artfully decorated tables and Chef Daniel Wendell came out to introduce his team of sous-chefs, and debrief us on the experimental dining experience that lay ahead.

Groups popped open whatever beverage they had chosen to bring, and awaited the first in a dizzying array of delicacies that would be paraded out of the kitchen over the next four hours.

Wendell’s interpretation of ceviche—raw fish often cured to opaque toughness in citrus juice—provided an inkling of what was to come. Wendell’s “ceviche” looked more like something off a sushi menu—thin slices of scallop sashimi, accented with finely grated orange and coconut.

The first of 12 courses in a Food Studio Cinco de Mayo dinner featured a “ceviche” of thin slices of scallop sashimi, accented with finely grated orange and coconut. PHOTO BY BLYTHE BEAUBIEN

“We strive to make the normal not only unique but extravagant,” Wendell said. “Many of the dishes we make encompass something that you can identify with, and yet we tried to push the envelope by manipulating that identity in the hope of giving you a new experience.”

Case in point: a frog leg “tamale.” The presentation was akin to a fluffy fried corndog with a delicate frog leg providing the “stick” and inside, a tender meat surprisingly reminiscent of chicken.

The plates kept coming—creamy burrata over tangy green salsa, candied pork belly with dollops of 18-ingredient mole and tamarind sauce, a miniature octopus tostada with habanero aioli, suckling lamb barbacoa tacos, sea bass al pastor—but in small enough portions and with long enough pauses in between, that it was never overwhelming.

And room had to made for dessert: a fermented banana to clear the palate, and a tres leches that featured burnt milk ice cream, white chocolate crumbles and fried milk—both of which elicited sounds of delight from both tables.

“Cooking for us is a chance to give back to our communities,” said Wendell, who was in Malta, Montana, cooking for donors and guests of the nonprofit, American Prairie Reserve. “Spreading our love for cooking, food, socializing and learning, we hope to enrich peoples’ lives and sense of community through the enjoyment of food.”

The Food Studio caters the spectrum of events from simple cocktail parties to multicourse plated dinners and weddings. They also host wine and beer-pairing dinners, and special pop-up events at the location of their commercial kitchen on Kagey Boulevard.

Visit foodstudiomt.com for more information and a schedule of upcoming events.