💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.
Chef Ange Branca’s rollercoaster year is ending on a bright note. Seven months after closing Saté Kampar on East Passyunk, she’s starting a new communal kitchen that aims to elevate burgeoning chefs from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Kampar Kitchen will be a culinarily shape-shifting space where Branca and team will nurture up-and-coming cooks and aspiring restaurateurs.
Based in South Philly’s Bok building, the venture will offer carryout options from a rotating roster of creators and cuisine concepts, allowing people to offer their brand of fare to the public without incurring high startup costs.
Kampar Kitchen “essentially transforms into a different restaurant each day,” the introductory post on Instagram explains.
The enterprise’s soft launch came Thursday, with Saté Kampar “meal sets” for two people. Friday’s Vietnamese and Chinese-inspired meal set comes from chef Jacob Trinh.
An official launch is planned for January. “We are taking this month to test out our kitchen and processes,” Branca said in an email, adding that most chefs lined up for the rotation will be “onboarding after the holidays.”
Highly acclaimed during its four-year run, Saté Kampar specialized in elevated Malaysian street cuisine. When it opened, it was in the running for the James Beard Award for best new restaurant. Branca closed the physical space in May because, she told the Inquirer, her landlord wanted to raise her rent even as COVID shutdowns took their toll. She was one of the first of dozens of bars, restaurants and other food businesses that have shut down in Philly since March.
Along with some of her restaurant’s staff, Branca continued making meals for front line health care workers, and then pivoted to pop-up experiences. Some were run out of Bok, others at Rittenhouse bar The Goat and members-only spot Fitler Club.
“More permanent than a pop-up and more nurturing than an incubator,” Kampar Kitchen is a mission-driven incarnation of the emerging “ghost” or “virtual” kitchen trend.
Other examples include The Commons in West Philly, which offers a variety of take-out food from different local brands, and a pay-what-you-can pop-up called Gather Food Hall, which gave food entrepreneurs an outlet to test their mettle with a public storefront while combating food insecurity at the same time.
Kampar Kitchen builds on Branca’s reputation for giving back by functioning purposefully as an incubator for up-and-comers that fosters culinary diversity.
The mission is one Branca, a former corporate strategist, has been working on for a while. In 2017 she launched a dinner party series and chef collective called Muhibbah, drawing on the Malay idea of racial, religious and cultural tolerance. It tapped established chefs and newbies for communal cooking and conversation, with proceeds going to various charities.
Kampar Kitchen’s launch timing also positions it as a fall-back for hospitality industry professionals who’ve been left financially frozen by the pandemic.