Foodies across Philadelphia celebrated on April 3 as chef and restaurateur Kevin Sbraga got back into the kitchen.
For one day only, Sbraga cooked his hot chicken, a popular dish at The Fat Ham, his Southern restaurant concept with locations in University City and King of Prussia that closed in 2017.
The food, offered through a special pop-up event by food-delivery service Caviar, tasted great, but the inspiration for the pop-up came from the classroom instead of the kitchen.
Sbraga is enrolled in the Drexel Executive MBA (EMBA) program at LeBow, and the idea for the pop-up came during Business Problem Solving, taught by associate clinical professor of management Suresh Chandran.
“We were talking about the food industry and about Amazon purchasing Whole Foods,” Chandran says. “I asked the class, ‘what would you do if you were Giant, or Acme or Trader Joe’s?’”
As Chandran and the class discussed methods of differentiation and of making shopping into an experience, he noticed Sbraga turning to one of his classmates and having an animated, off-and-on conversation.
“We were talking about innovation as a disrupter, and that made me start to think about how the real estate landscape is changing for retail as well as restaurants,” Sbraga says. “I reached out to a hospitality buddy of mine who has some experience in the tech field. I asked him, ‘How can we create a virtual restaurant? A restaurant experience without the brick and mortar,’ and his response was ‘delivery’.”
The Fat Ham was one of the first restaurants in Philadelphia to use Caviar, so Sbraga was familiar with their service delivering food from higher-end establishments. A spokesperson from Caviar said that the company leapt at the opportunity to partner for a one-day event. “The Hot Chicken was far and away the best-selling dish from The Fat Ham’s menu on Caviar. It was widely regarded as some of the best hot chicken outside of Nashville, so featuring it was an easy choice.”
Orders for the hot chicken, Sbraga’s version of a dish originating in Nashville before becoming a nationwide food craze, started coming in at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, along with side dishes of collard greens, macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pecans. Deliveries were made across Philadelphia throughout the afternoon.
“Doing it for one day only made it very special,” Sbraga says. “Demand exceeded supply, which was a good thing… but we’ll learn more about that in my economics class this term.”
Sbraga has found his studies in the EMBA program very inspiring – not only during Chandran’s class in early February. “It challenges me, makes me think and makes me better,” he says.