Scott Pierce serves Japanese-style katsu and Asian dishes at his Katsu King pop-up | Food and drink | Weekly Gambit
Scott Pierce launched his King Katsu pop-up during the pandemic. He’s operated a few pop-ups since moving to New Orleans six years ago, and he’s decided to focus on Japanese and Asian fare. His interest in Asian cuisines developed from a love of spicy Sichuan cuisine and Filipino cuisine growing up in New Jersey, and he discovered Hawaiian and Japanese cuisine while cooking in Portland, Oregon. For more information on King Katsu, visit facebook.com/kingkatsu99. His next pop-up is June 13 at Bar Redux.
Gambit: How did you decide to focus on katsu?
Scott Pierce: Six years ago, I started a pop-up called Another Pop-up at Bud Rip’s in Bywater. I was doing Hawaiian stuff, I was doing Japanese food. I was new to the game and didn’t know which direction I was going. Then I put katsu on the menu, because it’s a very quick thing. Over time, I realized that my biggest selling thing was katsu, so I decided to go in that direction. I had two clients and friends who came to each and said, “You are the king of katsu. I tried to find a twist on this and found King Katsu. I asked a friend in Pittsburgh to design a logo for me.
Katsu ran the business, so that’s what I decided to focus on. Tonkatsu is always pork. I have made chicken katsu in the past. There’s something called menchi katsu, which is ground beef or pork – it’s like a burger but breaded and fried with seasonings. I made tofu katsu. I pitched the idea of katsu croquettes, which would be mashed potato pancakes stuffed with cheese. You can katsu anything. It is a breading method.
Gambit: Why did you create a pop-up?
pierce: I worked in the restaurant business for over 20 years. I did everything: I served tables, bartender and did the dishes. I worked in the gastronomy. I worked front of house for a long time and got burnt out about it, so I continued to back of house.
I have been here for 6 years now. I messed up a bit here. When I arrived, I was working at the Pizza Delicious counter.
Nobody was able to get me fully into the kitchen here. I wanted to do my pop-ups and do it the way I wanted. I want to be able to charge what I want to charge. I think everyone from all walks of life should have good affordable food. My overhead is low, so I can keep my prices down to a certain point.
I don’t want to do more than four or five menu items. This allows me to make a budget. It also helps with speed. I’ve been to pop-ups around town where I wait 20-30 minutes, and I understand they’re busy, but it’s a pop-up. People want to take their food and leave. I want to limit tickets to 9-15 minutes when I’m busy.
I want to open a food pantry – bottle and sell my katsu sauce and kimchi mayonnaise. I’m tossing around the idea of making meat pies ahead of time and freezing them. I want to sell my kimchi and stuff like that.
Gambit: What do you like to put on the menu at King Katsu?
pierce: Katsu will always be on the menu. I normally have a few staples and a few promotions. I used to have a Spam sandwich which I removed, but I’m trying to bring it back. There are so many things I want to put on the menu that I haven’t done in a while, like five spice ribs. I created a monster with the meat pies. I put them on as a special months ago and people went crazy with them. I don’t think I can ever take them off. These are boneless, skinless chicken thighs that I mince myself. It’s Japanese curry (in a meat pie).
I like to have something that’s simmered or prepared so I can throw it over rice, and it’s not going to be compromised by being held (hot). Seasonally it starts to get hot, so I can put salads. I make a Hawaiian dish called lomi lomi salmon, which is quick-dried salmon with Vidalia tomatoes and sweet onions. You cure it for a day and mix it with black vinegar and sesame oil and green onions and keep it cold. You can serve it alone or over rice.
Humba pork is a Filipino dish. It is a variation of adobo, which is their national dish. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. They use pork belly. I love pork belly, but find a lot of people don’t eat it because it’s really fatty and rich. I wanted something leaner so I used pork shoulder and broke it down. I remove a lot of fat.
Humba has some interesting ingredients. There is no ginger, which is a staple of adobo and many Filipino dishes. You have your black pepper, bay leaf, garlic and ginger – these are their staples. Humba contains pineapple. There are salty black beans and it tastes like molasses in the back. It’s a great beautiful melody. I hate when food is only one or two notes. I want to be able to distinguish flavors. There should be things that come together and don’t work against each other.