Wheeler del Torro ’s restaurant, Fillet of Soul, is based in Jamaica Plain, but it serves food in Brighton. And Paris. And São Paulo. And Tokyo—and anywhere Del Torro feels like going.
Fillet of Soul is part of a new trend in dining out: “pop-up” restaurants, which open wherever and whenever the cook feels like serving.
“Pop-ups are the most amazing thing,” Del Torro said. “The flexibility of being able to move my work environment is an incredible thing.”
Fillet of Soul offers soul food with a few twists. For a start, it’s all vegan and much healthier than classic recipes. Occasionally, the menu will be themed. A recent themed menu featured Cuban street food, in what Del Torro called “Barrio Night.”
“Everything I do is vegan. Part of the challenge is to come up with healthy, nutritious and vegan food,” Del Torro, a vegan himself, said.
“I’m trying to get people to try vegan stuff” and not be influenced by biases, he said.
Del Torro started doing pop-ups while living in Paris as a teenager in 2000. His gatherings started as book club meetings, but soon guests were showing up more for the food than the literature, he said.
“Then a promoter asked me to do one in London,” Del Torro said, and he hasn’t looked back. He has been traveling and cooking all over the world since.
“This is about sharing. It’s about my journey through life and using food as language,” Del Torro said. “I’ve done events where no one speaks English, but they appreciate good food. The language of food and love are universal.”
Self-taught Del Torro is working on his second book, “The Secret Language of Food.” His first book, “The Vegan Scoop,” a vegan ice cream recipe book, was released in 2009.
Del Torro had been supplying 3 Scoops ice cream shop in Brighton Center with his vegan ice cream when owner Rayna Verbeck approached him about “popping up” after regular hours. He’s kept a regular schedule at 3 Scoops recently, but that could change on little or no notice.
“I think the idea of not being confined to one location and being able to work in other peoples’ spaces is a much more personal thing for me in regards to food,” Del Torro said.
He keeps office space in Forest Hills, where he stores vehicles and “brainstorms.”
“JP is awesome. It’s part of Boston but feels like a small quaint little town,” Del Torro said.
Pop-up restaurants can skirt the edge of legality—in Boston, restaurateurs are required to have a common victualler license. Some, like Fillet of Soul and JP-based Whisk, are legal because they are sharing space with another permanent business that already has the license. Others fly under the radar.