HPD Community Police join the “Pop Up” restaurant world, and rock it!

The steak course, w Cabernet reduction, blue cheese mashers and grilled asparagus

What do you get when you combine 1 Sergeant, 2 Detectives, 2 secretaries, a service officer/jailer and a police intern? You get one amazing 7 course meal that’s what.

from L-R Det Bureau Secretary Lupe Gallegos, Service Officer Lameka Bell, Sgt Chris "Hungry Detective" Cognac, Det John Dixon, Capt's Secretary Joyce Walker, Det Christy Chiarello and College Student/ cadet Anthony Ramon

The recent trend of “pop ups” has intrigued me, although I have never actually been to one. Chefs such as Ludo Lefebvre pretty much started the trend with his  “Ludo-Bites” concept which takes place in different locations around the country. He goes into a place, transforms the  menu and kicks flavors ass…

Well, as some of you folks know, the police dept I work for has a pretty kick ass outdoor kitchen that was the brainchild of our former and much loved Police Chief Steven Port, the problem with it is that the builders screwed up the gas lines and we could never actually get any heat to the equipment, so cooking was a “challenge” to say the least.  I have always tried to bring good publicity to my little police dept and you may have seen it on such TV shows as “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain” or “Feasting on Asphalt with Alton Brown” just to name a few. Flash forward a few years, the gas line is fixed and cranking out the BTU’s ..

HPD outdoor kitchen

The Chief informed me that the station would be hosting a very important lunch meeting for 13 Chief’s of Police and asked if I could figure out something to cook them for lunch….at that very moment the seed was planted for the very first “pop up” inside a police station , and that “pop up” would come to be known as “Chez Robert” (our Chief’s name is Robert). Since we are a working police station and not a restaurant, we had to find “front and back” of house help…it worked out nice that my partner Detective John Dixon, went to culinary school, one of the other detectives, Christy Chiarello was a waitress prior to becoming a cop 20 yrs ago. We also had an eager group of service officers, secretaries and a college student/police cadet. Now all we needed was a menu, tables, chairs, food…you know, the important stuff…

Micelada Shrimp (course #2)

We went to the local restaurant depot and got some bulk ingredients, as well as matching aprons etc so we would look professional. Det Dixon and I came up with  7 course tasting menu, that was printed out on really nice paper. We were able to make a big table out of office tables and some wood, covered with a rented table cloth and center pieces we got from a great little party supply place in town. Well, all was set up and now it was “game time” for the crew of Chez Robert. The “front of the house” Det Chirello, Lameka Bell, Joyce Walker and Lube Gallegos went through a mini “server boot camp” at 9 am so when the Chief’s came they were professional, seating the Chief’s, taking drink orders for fruit water, tea, etc…John and I, along with Cadet Ramon were furiously working in the kitchen just a few feet away from the Chief’s table.

The Chief's Table at Chez Robert

Game time came, Chez Robert was open , we had to have service down to a science that allowed for enough time in between courses that the Chief’s could discuss the business for which they came, and at the same time, blow them away with the amazing and well presented food that we were giving them. John and I had make steak butter, garlic infused olive oil and some other items the night before (John also made 3 cheesecakes at home) .

We sat 13 Chief’s and had to get it right, the right temps, flavors and plating…everyone had to chip in, and did I mention that we only had 3 plates per person, so that meant cadet Ramon had to wash and dry plates like a mad man so we could re use them.

Det Dixon and "Servers" Joyce and Lupe at the pass

The first “sit down” course came, it was bread slices (from a Basque bakery called Etxea in Hawthorne) sauteed in garlic oil, topped with a thick slice of pancheta, tossed in honey, served with a smashed raspberry and chives. When it was served 3 different Chief’s started taking pictures of the dish, it as then I knew we were going to hit it out of the park.

Me plating the pancheta course

Next course was the Mango Ahi, with micro greens or color, the whole thing cost next to nothing since we got the Ahi already chopped and frozen at Restaurant Depot, oh yea, it was good…but in my opinion the mos “boring” course of the meal..which I am ok with, since it was good..

Spicy Mango Ahi, served in a bamboo spoon....cost per serving...maybe 40 cents!

We made everything fresh, all the sauces, everything was made from scratch, except for the “Bob’s Big Boy” blue cheese dressing on the salad wedge, cause its just a damn good dressing!

A classic wedge with "Bob's Big Boy" Blue...and Trader Joe's Applewood Bacon

Everyone as working as a team, it was so great to see people that normally work in different capacities at the station (including our CSI technician Morgan Lane who took the photos) come together , have fun and really show how great we can be as a unit…

Cadet Anthony Ramon, working like a madman to get dishes clean so we could use em again!

The 7 courses flew by and I must say the Chief’s were impressed, in fact 3 of them photographed the individual courses…oh yea, on a funny note, one of the Chief’s was a “Tac-Officer” at Det Dixon’s police academy class and another Chief was the “Tac-Sergeant” for my academy class…they both came and thanked us for the meal. It felt great to accomplish something like that…a meal that was better than any restaurant around, served in the kitchen (albeit, amazing and outdoor) of the police station.

The Main Course!

So, now that the inaugural opening of “Chez Robert” has gone of without a hitch, maybe we can light the culinary-crime fighting world on fire with our killer tasting menu’s…maybe we can challenge Chef Ludo to a charity “pop up” event to raise some money for a worthy cause….what? you think that’s impossible….heck, I though opening a gourmet “pop up” in a police station was impossible too…so Ludo, what do you say?

Cheers from your community police-chefs Chris and John…be safe and eat well!

Me and John after service at Chez Robert