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Houston's tattoo-loving Masterchef pops up to cook up a special meal for his hometown

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James Nelson Masterchef at blender June 2013
James Nelson has advanced to the Top 19 on MasterChef's fourth season.  James Nelson - Masterchef/Facebook
Brave Kitchen Project's First Pop Up Dinner Service MENU
He and the rest of the Bravado team will host a Brave Kitchen Project kitchen take-over on Thursday.  Courtesy of Brave Kitchen Project
James Nelson Masterchef at blender June 2013
Brave Kitchen Project's First Pop Up Dinner Service MENU

If you have been tuning in for the fourth season of Fox's MasterChef, you might have recognized James Nelson, half of the charismatic pair behind Houston hot sauce company Bravado Spice

A handful of tattoos, a couple of stellar sauces and the equanimity to deal with Gordon Ramsay's signature snark aren't the only things that the 27-year-old self-taught chef has up his sleeve: From hundreds of initial applicants, Nelson has advanced by impressing judges with his passion as much as his culinary creations. 

"We were just getting started with Bravado when I applied on a whim," Nelson tells CultureMap of his venture into reality TV. 

As viewers across the nation wait to see how far Nelson will go from here, Houstonians can actually have a taste of his foodie flair on Thursday during a pop-up dinner at Mango's Cafe on Westheimer. 

 "Our goal is to put this kind of food out there and to have fun while doing it." 

This is the first such event from Brave Kitchen Project, a "multifaceted culinary company" that he and Jeremiah Tallerine — co-founder of Bravado Spice — began working on along with Vicente Blasco, director of operations, and Ryan Harcourt, account manager, before Nelson quietly slipped away to film MasterChef.

In addition to personalized cooking classes, event catering and recipes on demand, pop-up dinners, or "kitchen takeovers," will make up the backbone of Brave Kitchen's repertoire.

The first will feature an Indian-Mexican fusion menu — think tacos on Indian flatbread, Mexican dosas and tortas filled with Tandoori chicken plus cilantro, queso fresco and avocado — that aims to be unlike anything that the anticipated 300 attendees have ever experienced. Nelson hopes to continue hosting the takeovers on a monthly basis at different restaurants, with possible late night appearances at Grand Prize Bar.

"Our goal is to put this kind of food out there and to have fun while doing it," Nelson said, a philosophy that seems in line with his concept for a gastropub with unexpected fusion fare — a dream he mentioned during his MasterChef audition.

Meanwhile, Bravado Spice continues to sell out at farmers markets and attract vendors across the state. So even if Nelson doesn't win the cash prize and the cookbook deal on MasterChef, it seems like he's already well on his way to living that goal.

The Brave Kitchen pop-up dinner service begins on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Mango's Cafe, 403 Westheimer Rd. The menu items, which range from $5 to $15, will be served a la carte until they run out of food. Find more information here.

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