Pop-up lunch allows you to pay what you can


By Sue Cody


Pop-Up Lunch 4Chef Chris Holen has long wanted to open a soup kitchen, a dream that arose several years ago, while attending the Whitewater Institute. The idea was to serve a quality meal where everyone was welcome, and each person could pay what they wanted. He and Tongue Point Job Corps students made that dream come true with a “pop-up lunch” event last week.


The students prepared, plated and served lunch Monday through Friday, Feb. 20-24 in a demonstration kitchen in the annex next to Holen’s Baked Alaska restaurant. Far beyond a traditional soup kitchen, patrons had a choice of six entrees: Oregon pink shrimp melt; grilled cheese and tomato soup; curried chicken salad wrap; smoked salmon chowder bread bowl; chicken or vegan salad; or mushroom spaghettini. 


Serving the lunch cafeteria style allows people to get out and live and interact with each other, Holen said. Diners included people walking on the Astoria Riverwalk, Job Corps students, business people, homeless people, volunteers, families and others.


The number of patrons grew from 22 the first day to more than 60 by the end of the week. Everyone payed what they wanted, and no one was pressured.


Patrons from different walks of life shared high fives when they learned their birthdays were on the same day. Others raved about the food and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.


Pop-Up Lunch 1Eager culinary students


The culinary students were eager to get hands-on experience in a “real-world setting,” and enjoyed working with Holen.


Martien Chisholm says Holen is very descriptive, explaining each process in deep detail. For example, in making the sourdough bread, Holen guided them through each step, explaining the stages of development to make it the highest quality.


Student chef Veronica Heywood says the fast pace of food preparation at the pop-up lunch was challenging, but added, “It is awesome to see people from all walks of life gathering together.”


She says, “This is the top of the mountain for me. I want to see what’s on the other side.” She aspires to create something similar to the pop-up lunch permanently, where a mother with five kids and three jobs could come get a high-end meal.


Jumassa Belton says interacting with the other chefs and the public is a good learning experience. “You have to communicate well to get everything done in time,” she says.


She says working with Holen is “really awesome.”


Pop-Up Lunch 5More than food


Getting chefs to step out of their comfort zone is nothing new to Holen. His Chef Outta Water encourages chefs from around the world to travel and cook in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar ingredients. His travel has taken him to Iceland and Australia.


Serving good, healthy food and being philanthropic seem to be in Holen’s genes. He can’t help reaching out to people. He taught culinary arts at Seaside High School and brought The Iron Chef Goes Coastal to Clatsop County, as a fundraiser for United Way.


Australian chefs will visit Astoria in September.


The pop-up lunch was a success. Holen says he may host another one in the fall.