Scott Pierce started his King Katsu pop-up during the pandemic. He has operated a few pop-ups since moving to New Orleans six years ago, and he decided to focus on Japanese and Asian dishes. His interest in Asian cuisines developed from a love of spicy Sichuan cooking and Filipino food growing up in New Jersey, and he learned about Hawaiian and Japanese food while cooking in Portland, Oregon. For information about 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 what direction I was going. Then I put katsu on the menu, because it’s something that’s very quick. Over time, I realized my best-selling thing was katsu, so I decided to go in that direction. I had two clients and friends that would come to every one, and they’d say, “You’re the katsu king.” I tried to figure out a spin on that and came up with King Katsu. I had a friend in Pittsburgh draw up a logo for me.
Katsu was driving the business, so that’s what I decided to focus on. Tonkatsu is always pork. I have done chicken katsu in the past. There is something called menchi katsu, which is ground beef or pork — it’s like a burger but breaded and fried with seasonings. I have done tofu katsu. I have been kicking around the idea of katsu croquettes, which would be mashed potato patties stuffed with cheese. You can katsu anything. It’s a breading method.
Gambit: Why did you start a pop-up?
Pierce: I have worked in restaurants for over 20 years. I have done it all: I waited tables and bartended and dishwashed. I worked in fine dining. I worked in the front of the house for a long time and got burned out on that, so I pursued back of the house.
I have been here for 6 years now. I have bopped around a little bit here. When I first came down, I worked at the counter at Pizza Delicious.
No one’s been 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 everybody from all walks of life should have good affordable food. My overhead is low, so I can keep my prices at a certain point.
I don’t want to do more than four or five menu items. It allows me to budget. It also helps with speed. I have been to pop-ups in the city where I am waiting 20-30 minutes, and I understand that they’re busy, but this is a pop-up. People want to take their food and go. I want to keep tickets to 9 to 15 minutes when I am busy.
I want to start a pantry — bottling and selling my katsu sauce and my kimchi mayo. I am kicking around the idea of making meat pies ahead of time and freezing them. I want to sell my kimchi and other stuff like that.
Afrodisiac started with a popular purple food truck.
Gambit: What do you like to put on the menu of King Katsu?
Pierce: The katsu is always going to be on the menu. I normally have a couple of staples and some specials. I used to have a Spam sandwich that I have taken off, but I am trying to bring it back. There’s just so many things I want to put on the menu that I haven’t done in a while, like five spice sticky ribs. I created a monster with the meat pies. I put them on as a special months ago and people went bonkers over them. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take them off. It’s boneless, skinless chicken thighs that I ground myself. It’s Japanese curry (in a meat pie).
I like to have something that is stewed or prepared so I can throw it over rice, and it’s not going to be compromised by being held (hot). Seasonally, it’s getting hot, so I may put some salads on. I do a Hawaiian dish called lomi lomi salmon, which is quick cured salmon with tomatoes and sweet Vidalia onions. You cure it for a day and mix it up with black vinegar and some sesame oil and green onions and keep it cold. You can serve it by itself or over rice.
Pork humba is a Filipino dish. It’s a variant of adobo, which is their national dish. There’s no right or wrong way to make it. They use pork belly. I love pork belly, but I find that a lot of people don’t eat it, because it’s really fatty and rich. I wanted something leaner, so I use pork shoulder and break it down. I skim a lot of the fat off.
Humba has interesting ingredients. There is no ginger in it, which is a staple of adobo and lots of Filipino dishes. You have your black pepper, bay leaf, garlic and ginger — that’s their staples. Humba has got pineapple in it. There’s salted black beans and it has this this molasses taste on the back end. It’s a big beautiful melody. I hate when food is just one or two notes. I want to be able to pick out flavors. There should be things that come together and don’t work against each other.