On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Kelly Barnhart joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Vibrant, her healthy eating concept that's scheduled to open soon. The Montrose restaurant's menu takes its inspiration from a diet Barnhart developed for her daughter; all of its dishes are gluten-free, dairy-free, do not contain processed sugars or GMO ingredients, and are beautiful to look at.
"I backed into it, really. I didn't start out thinking about wanting to be a restaurateur," Barnhart says. "Really, what inspired this pursuit is I had my little girl six years ago, and I became so interested in how to promote her well being, how to do a good job in growing her in the most healthy and vibrant way that I could. That pursuit tuned me in to my interests in well being and ways to create well being for people. Vibrant the restaurant was born out of raising my daughter."
Barnhart hired lifestyle blogger Alison Wu to develop Vibrant's menu, even though Wu has no formal restaurant training. Why take such an unusual step?
I spent two years working with various restaurant chefs trying to create the vision that I had for the food that I wanted to have. I utterly lack in culinary skill . . . I was trying to verbally translate the vision that I had. I didn't know the vision I had existed anywhere, so I was trying to explain it to people. That direction with restaurant-type chefs was unyielding, because they're so used to doing things the way that restaurants normally do them. That's not what I wanted. I wanted something entirely outside of the box.
Finally, it occurred to me that I needed to go to someone who eats that way for themselves. It was a true, authentic expression of their own way of life instead of trying to get a chef to mimic something they don't innately do. I came across her food after years of searching and immediately recognized the vision I had in my mind is what she was naturally. I immediately knew she was the right person to articulate the vision.
Prior to Barnhart's interview, Fluff Bake Bar owner Rebecca Masson joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include an extended conversation about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' controversial visit to El Tiempo: should restaurants serve people they may disagree with politically; the questionable merits of social media posts that include controversial figures (including a very funny anecdote from Masson about the Wu-Tang Clan); and whether El Tiempo will suffer any permanent damage to its business. From there, they move on to discuss both Understory, the latest food hall to announce plans to open downtown, and Railway Heights, the new market/food hall hybrid coming to the northern end of Washington Avenue. They also briefly touch on cocktail bar One Armed Scissor's plans to reopen downtown.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler shares some first impressions of International Smoke, Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry's new restaurant in CityCentre, and Pizza Motus, the newly opened Roman-style pizzeria in West University Place. Finally, Masson discusses her recent essay for ChefsFeed titled, "I'm Not a Bitch — I'm the Boss."