Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nationally-Renowned Chef Kevin Sousa Seeking Crowd-Funding for Revamped Braddock Restaurant Project

BRADDOCK, Pa. – Award-winning  Pittsburgh Chef Kevin Sousa made news last year when he announced he would open one of his cutting-edge restaurants in the distressed mill town of Braddock, PA.  He made news again when his plans to rehab an old building to house it proved too rich for investors’  tastes, and the project nearly died.

Chef Kevin Sousa works
with Braddock-area youth
at the community bread oven.
But now Sousa’s vision is making a comeback to rival that of this gritty municipality a few miles up the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh where he and his family now live, a town which currently has no operating restaurant, fast food or otherwise.

The force in the kitchen behind such notable Pittsburgh restaurants  as Salt of the Earth and Union Pig & Chicken recently unveiled a new plan for what he calls a “community restaurant and farm ecosystem” to be called Superior Motors, named for the building’s original tenant, one of the country’s first indoor car dealerships.

Instead of wooing a few wealthy backers or big banks, Sousa has turned to the crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter to drum up the $250,000 he will need to turn his dream – one shared by Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and others – into reality. They see a 50-seat restaurant sourced by local farms, henhouses  and beekeepers, and staffed by local residents who will receive free culinary training as well as dining discounts, located in the shadow of a working steel mill – U.S. Steel Corp.’s venerable Edgar Thomson Works.

Supporters can invest as little as $1 in the project, although for a $25 outlay they can get a free entrée when the place opens. Larger contributions will bring dinner at Sousa’s home, or dinner with the illustrious Mayor Fetterman, who has become an unlikely international celebrity for his blue-collar approach to governing and urban revitalization. Out-of-towners and others willing to part with $100 will receive a limited edition Braddock T-shirt reading "Build it Back up" on the front and "Rebuilding 15104" on the back, designed by the Braddock Youth Project.

A $10,000 investment, unclaimed at presstime, would turn the place over for “an all-inclusive, custom designed corporate or holiday party, rehearsal dinner, graduation or any other dining/entertaining celebration of your designation for up to 25 guests in and around what is sure to be a one-of-a-kind restaurant ecosystem.” CLICK HERE to make your investment in Superior Motors, which was designed by Pittsburgh-based Studio for Spatial Practice.

The restaurant will be located (rent-free) on the ground floor of the building at 1211 Braddock Avenue, the loft of which is currently occupied by Fetterman and his wife, Gisele, who also has been active in driving the Braddock revitalization effort (Sousa and his family moved into their former quarters up the street).

That community-based ecosystem Sousa talks about combines food, farming, art, history, industry, training and lodging, according to the Kickstarter presentation.

“Superior Motors will truly embrace ‘farm to table’ and ‘local,’ with abundant access to fresh, organic produce from a two-acre urban farm one block away, a 1,000 sq. ft. rooftop greenhouse, as well as 4,000 sq. ft. of additional roof space to accommodate a raised bed garden.”

Superior Motors is located next to the Unsmoke alternative art gallery and performance venue housed in a formerly abandoned school which hosts new artists, studios, shows and openings every month. Between them is a hostel in a previously abandoned nunnery that will provide no-cost housing for culinary and service volunteers from all over the country, according to the Kickstarter page.

"For the first time in my career, “ says Sousa, “I have the opportunity to breathe life into a restaurant that is not chasing trends, but a restaurant that has no choice other than to represent a place and time by producing food representative of its past, present and future.”

By Thomas Buell, Jr.

1 comment:

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