Good Fortune, the much-discussed pop-up by Andrew Miller and Chef Charles Welch, is more than just a pop-up. It’s the start-up before the start-up; the pre-incubator, if you will. With menus that change on an almost daily basis, Welch and Miller are conducting a break-even market research operation that will support the foundation of their bigger vision: Out to Lunch Hospitality.
“We’re dealing with human capital and a luxury commodity,” Miller sits down on the shiny teal booth next to me with an enthusiastic smile and explains. “Every facet of what we do is based on human relationships. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m going to communicate with my customers, my vendors, and my staff in the same way.”
At Good Fortune, you can see the magic Miller works with everyone he comes across. He’s no ordinary creative director. He’s a hospitality curator, bringing all the pieces together to play seamlessly. “The pillars and foundations [at Out to Lunch restaurants] to scratch the customer itch will always be in place. But the rest is going to be creative and spontaneous.”
Miller’s excitement spreads across the table as he describes flying out of bed at the crack of dawn to track down visual representation of what he dreams of for the upcoming Out to Lunch concepts. Consider Out to Lunch a creative incubator for the restless restaurant industry. Chefs that have a stake in the business as partners will be bound by financially prudent parameters but limitless in all other opportunities.
“We want to build a family with Out to Lunch,” Miller concludes. “We want to develop people’s dream projects. And we actually mean it.” Enter Chef Charles Welch.
“Charlie has limitless talent. We’re looking for people like that…the ones that can’t just do this from 9 to 5. We have to live and breathe and study and absorb it. Charlie far exceeded all my expectations at Honey’s. Now we’re hitting the reset button.”
And that button is labeled Good Fortune. Week one was a conservative menu, with Welch tiptoeing around his self-awarded freedom, still working to unbind himself from his old habits and constraints. But now, three weeks in, there’s frisky flair with every dish and diners can feel it. Course after course comes whizzing to and by our table, all served by Welch himself. He is a blur, “My line cook had this great idea for paella and so we added this to the menu this morning,” and *boom*, he’s gone leaving behind a chicken- and chorizo-studded rice dish in his wake. The motto in the Good Fortune kitchen appears to be “you do you” and like a recipe that has surprising ingredients, it’s working really well.
The stress of working in a small kitchen that isn’t their own, in a restaurant space that does not reflect any of their future aesthetic or design, and with a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants attitude is not seen in the exquisitely simple tagliatelle with shrimp and uni. The perfectly charred ciabatta bread that one can dip in octopus salpicon and shrimp oil remnants for hours (I ordered four extra slices of bread…) drips with instinct and playfulness.
And the raw bar selections? Well that’s just fun, especially when smoothly aligned with the cocktail menu. Olive juice caviar martini, anyone?
“The stress is there but we’re owning it,” Miller adds. “We can’t wait to color the new space with Charlie’s talent.”
While Miller and Welch are focusing on their first venture together, slated to open early next year, they’re already thinking of the others. “We’re flexing on the existing Chicago community.” Chefs and cooks that have been itching to get away from the red tape of adding new dishes to menus and experimenting on people’s palates will be the ones who help raise Out to Lunch for what it is—a hospitality community dedicated to everyone being their best selves and what they love to do.
Creativity and spontaneity will reign supreme. Good Fortune just happens to be the tip of the iceberg. And if this is only the beginning, I think we’ll all be delightfully surprised with what’s to come.
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