Running a restaurant is a full-time job and then some—which is why it’s all the more impressive when chefs make room in their busy schedules for passion projects. Chefs like Brooks Headley, creator of the veggie burger that launched a thousand-person line, have begun to make a name for themselves with pop-ups, spin-offs, and products while holding down the fort at restaurants like Momofuku, Incanto, D.O.M., and Del Posto.
Scroll down to see how chefs from Mark Ladner to Alex Atala spend their mornings and weekends.
The chef: Mark Ladner
The day job: Manning the kitchen at Del Posto, the highest-end—and priciest—of Mario Batali’s New York restaurants.
The side gig: A pop-up, high-tech version of a Japanese ramen shop…with gluten-free pasta. The Celiac-afflicted, health-conscious, or simply curious will place their orders via iPad; mere minutes later, the customer gets a cooked-to-order dish with sauce and protein of his choice. Ladner’s worked with gluten-free pastas before, offering them at Del Posto, but Pasta Flyer will have a markedly lower price point. Starting in New York, Ladner plans a Kickstarter-funded “tour” of the Northeast this fall, with an eye towards a permanent operation next year. (Photo: Mark Ladner)
Kaizen Trading Company
The chef: As an offshoot of the Momofuku empire, the KTC frontman is, technically, David Chang. But Kaizen Trading Company and its wares are mostly the brainchild of product development chef Ryan Miller.
The day job: Miller runs the Momofuku Culinary Lab, the four-year-old research kitchen Momofuku operates in Brooklyn. KTC’s products are the direct result of the lab’s findings.
The side gig: As Miller explained to us earlier this month, KTC aims to apply “old-word fermentation techniques [to] non-traditional ingredients” (i.e., not soy). Its two signature products thus far are hozon and bonji, loose adaptations of miso and soy sauce; up next is vegan cheese. For now, KTC products are only available through the New York restaurants that use them, but a subscription service is in the works. (Photo: Jeffrey de Picciotto)
The chef: Brooks Headley
The day job: Working alongside Ladner as Del Posto’s pastry chef.
The side gig: Creating New York’s latest exercise in punishingly long lines, this time for veggie burgers. At a mere $5 per patty and $10 per meal—which includes Old Bay-seasoned potatoes and dessert—Superiority is decidedly closer to fast food than Whole Foods. The project first took over the Lower East Side’s Family Recipe, then moved on to the meatcentric Cannibal for a healthy dose of irony (round two also included vegan wraps). There are supposedly more pop-ups to come, though they haven’t been announced yet. (Photo: Brooks Headley)
The chef: Chris Cosentino
The day job: Co-owning and cooking at San Francisco’s Incanto; appearing on various reality TV shows, including the fourth season of Top Chef: Masters, which he won.
The side gig: After working at Incanto for nearly half a decade, Cosentino and partner Mark Pastore spun Cosentino’s hand-made salumi into a venture of its own. Billing itself as the Bay Area’s go-to source of “tasty salted pig tarts,” Boccalone makes its products out in Oakland, operates a brick-and-mortar in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, and offers everything from orange and brown sugar salume, to black truffle mortadella—all available to order online. (Photo: Boccalone)
The chef: Alex Atala
The day job: Heading up D.O.M., the São Paulo restaurant that’s a regular on best-in-the-world shortlists.
The side gig: Atala founded the Instituto Atá last year with an extremely ambitious mission—finding ingredients that are “not only good to eat, but…also healthy for those who make, eat and produce” them. It includes handful of projects focused on creating a broader audience for sustainable Brazilian ingredients from small-scale, often indigenous farmers. So far, Atá’s initiatives include finding markets for the jiquitaia chili, grown by Baniwa women in the Amazon, vanilla from Brazil’s Cerrado region, and Brazilian honey. Next on Acala’s to-do list are seafood and natural oils. (Photo: Instituto Atá)
The chef: Dave Arnold
The day job: Booker & Dax, Momofuku’s high-tech cocktail den attached to Ssäm Bar.
The side gig: Perhaps best known as the device that made desk nachos possible, the Searzall is an attachment that renders the common blowtorch into a handheld broiler. Funded via Kickstarter in 2013, the Searzall promises to bring industrial-grade—or at least restaurant-style—firepower to the people. Arnold came up with the idea while teaching at the Culinary Institute of America as a way to level up food turned “pale and crustless” after being cooked sous vide. But it’s just as effective on an ordinary steak—or nachos. (Photo: Searzall)
The chef: Ferran Adrià
The day job: Adrià’s currently in the fourth year of his post-El Bulli victory lap.
The side gig: Fewer chef’s cuisine seems harder to replicate at home than Adria’s, but the line of products Ferran co-created with his brother Albert aims to change that. Since 2010, the year before El Bulli closed, Adrià has offered tools like xanthan gum and spherification kits to the extremely ambitious amateur. The line’s site offers demonstrations and recipes to those looking to craft their own emulsions, gels, and “frozen chocolate air.” Interested? Contact Texturas’ lone U.S. distributor. (Photo: Texturas)
Food Writer Side Project of Note: Margot’s Pizza
The chef: Adam Kuban
The day job: Covering pizza, and cooking it. Kuban previously founded the influential blog Slice, where he showcased his encyclopedic knowledge of pizza for more than a decade.
The side gig: Hosted at Emily in Clinton Hill, Margot’s celebrates the “bar pizza,” loosely defined as a thin-crusted, crisp, medium-sized pie prevalent in, but not exclusive to, Massachusetts’ South Shore. Named after Kuban’s daughter, Margot’s came into being after the writer-turn-pizzaiola learned the ropes through an apprenticeship at Paulie Gee’s. Would-be patrons must purchase tickets to the “occasional pop-up” in advance for the opportunity to taste Kuban’s “Margot-rita” and “Funghitown” creations (Photo: Margot’s Pizza)