Unemployed chef awarded $2,000 to start “underground supper club”

Feb 22, 2011

Grand Rapids chef  Brian Gerrity with an idea for an underground supper club called “Fire & Knife” got $2,000 towards that goal.

“I’m a mercenary chef right now, chef for hire. It’s a fancy way of saying I’m unemployed."

He wants to offer a temporary venue where chefs don’t have to worry about normal constraints like food costs holding back their creativity.

 “Every chef has those dishes that just don’t work. They just don’t work and when we sit around and talk about them you know it’s always kind of this game of one-up-manship – ‘oh yeah well what about this dish? What if we did this? Well what if we did this?’ – and it grows to this point where it’s completely nonsensical. It doesn’t make sense in a restaurant, but it would be so fun to do for people.”

Gerrity plans to use most of the money to develop the website he needs to start the club.

During the first “5x5” contest, 5 people got 5 minutes to present their good ideas that just need a little start up cash to become reality. The 5 judges awarded 5-thousand dollars total.

The prize money is awarded through a studio founded by Grand Rapids businessman Rick DeVos. He was also one of the judges this time. They awarded the remaining 4 contestants $750 dollars apiece.

 “Everybody did a great job presenting these ideas. You could see that they all came from places of passion. We’re thankful that we had such great ideas that were presented this time and that we could play a role in helping to hopefully move them forward.”

Even those who didn’t win are happy about the event. Josh Leo sips a celebratory glass of sweet white wine at the very crowded after-party. He didn’t net the $5,000 he could have won. He did score $750 though for his idea to bring Grand Rapids’ history to life in a smart phone application he hopes to create. Maybe more importantly, Leo flashes the business cards he picked up this evening from people volunteering to help make his idea a reality.

“You know the money is just the start, especially for my project. It’s people power, its time and just, passion and interest.”

Organizers hope the monthly event will make people more open to sharing their ideas, and bump into the right people that can help get projects going.

More than 250 people with ideas applied for the monthly contest. This was the first.

They’re all supposed to report their progress in a couple months.