Chef Eric Greenspan

Today we have a very special guest, chef Eric Greenspan. Eric has over 20 years of experience in the culinary world, having worked with chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Rocco DiSpirito, and apprenticing at the three-Michelin-star El Bulli in Spain. He was executive chef at several successful restaurants in LA, including Patina, The Foundry, and Maré, and is a noted cookbook author and regular judge on Guy’s Grocery Games.

Eric is on the show today to talk about ghost kitchens and virtual kitchens, as he’s an expert in this emerging field. In 2017, he started his own delivery-only virtual kitchen operation, Alt/Grub/Faction. He also leads the culinary team for Virtual Dining Concepts, which partners with celebrity food brands like Mariah’s Cookies, Tyga Bites, and MrBeast Burger. We sought Eric’s insight about this new ecosystem of delivery-only dining in light of CloudKitchens opening its first ghost kitchen in San Diego, the Barrio Food Hub.

Eric entered this new area of the culinary world when he realized that with all of the restaurants he was running, he was spending most of his time in the car driving from one to another. His solution was to gather all his concepts together and make them available for delivery in a ghost kitchen (which rents space for prepping and cooking only) that he operated out of CloudKitchens’ LA location. He says this environment is appealing for young chefs, since renting a space in a ghost kitchen costs much less than opening a traditional restaurant, and all the money saved on rent can be used on advertising and marketing. Although his operation was successful, he could deliver food only within a four-mile radius of the ghost kitchen. That’s why Eric teamed up with Robert Earl, founder of Planet Hollywood (who was renting space right next to him)—they realized that their brands did not have a future in ghost kitchens, and they developed their own virtual kitchen company: Virtual Dining Concepts.

Eric explained how virtual kitchens operate differently from ghost kitchens: Existing  brick-and-mortar restaurants can apply to essentially be a ghost kitchen for an established national virtual brand (like MrBeast Burger), and then prepare the food for delivery only. Eric says this model helped restaurants avoid having to close during the pandemic, and that it’s been successful: MrBeast Burger sold their first million burgers within a month of launching. As for maintaining quality control, Eric says he created the menus for these brands to be accessible and easy to follow. And when he’s developing dishes, he tastes them only after letting them sit for 30 minutes, to simulate the time it would take to deliver.

In Hot Plates, Claudette Zepeda's new restaurant, Vaga, just opened, and Troy got the First Look. Chef William Eick is serving Japanese-style fried chicken out of his new restaurant, Naegi, in Oceanside. Matteo Cattaneo, founder of Buona Forchetta, also has a new fried chicken concept in South Park, Chicchirichì at Matteo. After being closed for two years, Storehouse Spirits finally reopened last week in East Village with their own line of gin, vodka, bourbon, and rum, as well as a restaurant on site.

In Two People for Takeout / Two People for $50, Eric’s perfect night in involves MrBeast Burgers and Mariah’s Cookies, while watching Guy’s Grocery Games. Troy can’t wait to check out Weapon Ramen in Liberty Station, Phillip Esteban’s new eatery. David says once he gets back to San Diego, he’s looking forward to enjoying an Arrogant Bastard and a veggie cheeseburger at Stone Brewing at the airport. My pick is Barrio Star for their carnitas chile relleno, and Marie is looking for recommendations for places to get oysters—let us know your favorite spots!

Thank you for listening! As always, we want to hear from our listeners. Need a recommendation for takeout? Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? Let us know! You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re too shy, you can email us at happyhalfhour@sdmag.com. See you next week!

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