On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Ope Amosu joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss ChòpnBlọk. Since 2017, Amosu has been hosting pop-ups to test ideas for turning the West African-themed concept into a brick and mortar restaurant.
Amosu, who grew up in Houston's Nigerian community, tells Sandler that he became interested in opening a restaurant when he realized how difficult it was to find West African cuisine in cities he traveled to. Armed with a MBA from Rice and some time as a prep cook at Chipotle, he began hosting pop-ups and restaurant takeovers. Ultimately, ChòpnBlọk became sufficiently success to draw the attention of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who featured it in one of the segments of the recent, Houston-themed episode of his PBS series No Passport Required.
"We saw the purpose of ChòpnBlọk is to share the beauty of West African culture through food that shapes society's daily routine," Amosu says. When we think about that, we want to make sure the food we create are able to translate across the spectrum, regardless of where you're at in this journey of discovering our food and culture."
As one example, he cites the Trad Bowl as a dish that blends traditional flavors — in this case jollof rice, the West African precursor to jambalaya, and roasted plantains — with Western touches such as root vegetables that have been seasoned with suya spice. The project has been successful enough that Amosu is looking for a permanent home for ChòpnBlọk, but he hasn't found the right location yet. Listen to the full interview to learn more about how Amosu has developed the concept and his experience being on television.
Prior to the interview, Sandler and Avondale Food & Wine owner Mary Clarkson discuss the news of the week. Their topics include One Fifth's new "lightning round" format, the closure of Pi Pizza, and the opening of a second location of The Burger Joint.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler and Clarkson discuss the recent changes at Penny Quarter. The Montrose cafe now features an expanded, more vegetarian-friendly menu and an all-new cocktail list created by bartender Sarah Crowl. Sandler also describes some of the meals he ate during his recent trip to Las Vegas.