“Positivity is the ultimate protest” is chef Kelly Whitaker’s motto for his latest endeavor: hosting an advocacy kitchen inside Brutø, his Dairy Block restaurant. Through the six-week pop-up, Whitaker (also the Wolf’s Tailor, Basta, Dry Storage) aims to spread hope and support social issues through food by giving local chefs an outlet to share their views and culinary traditions. 

Whitaker says that his desire to amplify unheard voices in the hospitality industry—coupled with uncertainty around the future of Brutø and the adjoining Free Market retail shops due to the coronavirus pandemic—drove the concept to fruition. “I want to be as active as possible during these six weeks before the election,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we take the chance and let chefs showcase the stories they want to tell?’ This isn’t your typical pop-up. There has to be a big why [involved]. My question for the chefs is, ‘What do you have to tell the world?’”

The Brutø advocacy kitchen raises the pop-up ante by hosting two to three affairs per week at the restaurant, with the help of event coordinator Leigh Barnholt. Each event is paired with a local farm and seats just 10 social-distanced patrons, centered around Brutø’s refurbished chef’s counter; reservations are recommended but additional walk-in seating is also available, depending on the pop-up. All proceeds benefit the participating chefs and the organizations they choose to support; the program kicked off on September 10 with chef Tajahi Cooke’s Ital Dinner Series.

Cooke, an alum of Biju’s Curry Shop, Mother Tongue, and Block and Larder who also co-owns five-year-old Ms. Betty’s Cooking with his wife Danielle, was thrilled to sign on to the Brutø project as resident chef and adviser. Cooke, who grew up in Jamaica, wants to introduce guests to the lesser-known side of Jamaican food, particularly vegan Ital cuisine—which he calls the base of Rastafarian cuisine. “Ital comes from the word vital. Everything you eat has to nourish your body, it has to come from the ground,” he says. “As a chef, I believe that we are stewards of the food and farmers are the stewards of the land.”

By sharing his grandmother Betty’s recipes, Cooke also hopes to promote unity and community. “In Jamaica, we have a saying ‘out of many, we are one,’” he says. “It’s not just about food anymore—it’s about connection.” Cooke’s upcoming dinners ($75 per person) showcase produce from Miller Farms (October 15) and Mo’ Betta Greens (October 25). The menus are still in development, but Cooke’s past dishes have included Colorado Sonoran grain risotto with jerk mushrooms and curried mango inspired by his grandmother’s 400-year-old recipe.

On Friday and Saturday, September 25 and 26, Jacaranda chef Modou Jaiteh and his team will cook at Brutø, featuring a menu inspired by Jaiteh’s West African roots. Jaiteh says he was ready to take a brief hiatus after Jacaranda’s recent exit from Boulder’s Rosetta Hall, but when Whitaker reached out, Jaiteh was so drawn to the advocacy kitchen’s mission that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to participate. Jacaranda’s three-course lunch ($35) and four-course dinner ($55) menus and à la carte options ($8–19) will highlight the flavors, ingredients, and stories of the African Diaspora. 

Jaiteh’s goals include educating diners about the shared foodways among West African, Caribbean, and Afro-Brazilian cultures and the importance of supporting local food systems. At the pop-up, expect to taste specialties like flatbread studded with cauliflower and mushrooms roasted with shito (a Ghanaian hot sauce); peanut butter soup with short rib and eggplant; a variation on the smoked chicken yassa and jollof rice served at Jacaranda; and cassava coconut custard with brown butter.

What’s on Brutø’s agenda after the pop-up series ends? Whitaker isn’t sure, but for now, he’s enjoying what the other chefs are stirring up in his kitchen. “These messages are just insanely cool,” Whitaker says. “I’m excited to be apart of it.” 

More events to look for at Brutø’s advocacy kitchen:

Chef Michael Diaz de Leon (formerly of Old Major)
Lunch and Dinner Taco Omakase
October 13, 20, 27, 30
Issue: Immigration
Menu: Inspired by the cuisines of Mexican border towns

Chef Luke Miller, Dry Storage Bakery
Lunchtime Bake the Vote/Bakers Against Racism
October 10, 17, 24, 31
Issues: Black Lives Matter and the importance of voting
Menu: Sourdough from the hearth and wood-fired pizza

Chef Forest Ragar (formerly of Watercourse Foods)
Don’t be a Jerk Dinner
October 29
Issue: Climate change
Menu: Inspired by Jamaican jerk chicken (vegan variations also available)

Make your reservations here.

Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.