A small vegan pop-up is trying to take over the world — peacefully, of course.
Chickpea and Olive, a Smorgasburg favorite, isn’t just serving healthy dishes in hopes of opening a more permanent restaurant, it’s got its sights on changing attitudes about food in general, starting with your kitchen.
Unlike most pop-ups and their dreams of becoming food trucks or brick-and-mortar restaurants, the young chef and co-owner of Chickpea and Olive Danielle Ricciardi has no plans of going the traditional route anytime soon. Rather, she and partner Daniel Strong are expanding their business through branding their way into your kitchen, giving vegan cooking classes at the Brooklyn Kitchen, as well as Haven’s Kitchen in Chelsea.
“We attract vegans and omnivores alike,” said Ricciardi. “They come to learn new cooking techniques, like how to roll tamales. What our students do with their new skills once they go home is really up to them, but for the 2 hours they are with us, we open their eyes to what we believe to be a kinder, more gentle life style.”
Among their cruelty-free food, their Phatty Beet Slider, the star of their menu (and maybe the New York City vegan food scene altogether), is an indisputable triumph. Grilled, salted, and spiced to perfection, this Mediterranean-inspired, twee-green take on an All-American classic will win hearts and change minds, one bite at a time. It’s the way the initial beefiness of that first perfectly crunchy bite gives way to the smooth heat of spicy habanero ketchup and a springy vegan brioche that makes this burger rank among the best bites of food you’ll ever have, plant-eater or not.
It’s no wonder, then, that having perfected their craft so early in the game, Chickpea and Olive has their sights set on so much more than serving food. Rcciardi and Strong admit they do want to own a fleet of restaurants, eventually, and be at the helm of a small vegan empire of natural, artisanal vegan packaged foods. But for now they’re not trying to proselytize the omnivorous masses so much as they’re letting their food do the preaching for them, quietly planning world domination.
“We want to veganize everything and make it all better than the original,” said Ricciardi. “A chickpea can dream, can’t she?”
Chickpea and Olive at Smorgasburg (East River State Park, Kent Avenue, betw. N. Sixth and N. Seventh streets, www.chickpeaandolive.com/cooking-classes.html) Saturdays until Nov. 17, 11 am–6 pm.