Bad reviews, a fire, customers getting food poisoning—these could arguably be considered the worst things to happen to a chef opening their own restaurant for the very first time. But that was before a viral outbreak shut down the country. Just ask chef Kevin Ashade. He opened Pangea Restaurant and Bar in late January, less than two months before the food industry was rocked. A budding restaurant was cut off before its chance to bloom.
“We were seven weeks running and everything was going great,” Ashade says. “We were revving up for busy season—spring and patio weather.”
Ashade, known to many as Chef Kev, is Nigerian-born but claims Dallas as home. And at a mere 15 minutes away from the Colony High School where he walked the halls, Ashade’s Pangea sits in Garland, on the boarder of both Plano and Richardson. For the 32-year-old, who previously displayed his skills at restaurants like The Oceanaire, Craft at the W Hotel, and through his own catering company, GourmEats, this opening was more than a goal; it was a dream.
“Once we got the news [to shutdown] it was something we really couldn’t do anything about,” Ashade says. “As the days went on, we saw it progressively getting worse.” While restaurants were deemed essential, it wasn’t enough for Pangea to meet their day-to-day expenses.
“For restaurants the margin is so low,” says Ashade, a resounding phrase we’ve been hearing from restaurant owners more and more lately. “We operate day to day, week to week. That Monday morning we had a full delivery of everything—food, liquor—all our vendors. At four o’clock that afternoon we found out we had to shut doors.”
The first thing Ashade could think about was his staff.
“I tried to keep pretty calm, but it’s hard to keep calm, especially when we have 60 employees that I had to answer to,” Ashade says. So, rather using his food to sell to the masses, Ashade gave all his food away to his staff.
Then, the brainstorming began. Ashade knew he would eventually get back into the kitchen, but he to be strategic about it, from what he sold to how often he sold it. So he began offering once-a-week curbside pick-up meals only.
And while will the curbside pick-up efforts are technically under his parent company, GourmEats, it was still important to have menu items with a Pangea mindset. While you won’t find coq au vin, the dish he beat Bobby Flay with, the menu will have an array of multicultural-influenced dishes like Chinese-style lo mein. Weekly rotating options include cheesy, stone-ground shrimp and grits, fried pot stickers, stuffed salmon, and seafood gumbo.
While the future of Pangea remains uncertain, Ashade hopes these trying times open the eyes of many when comes it to small businesses. But for the moment, he says, “Right now is not the time to dwell and cry, it’s about how are we going to move forward.”
Takeout Time: Ashade launches his new menu every Monday, and takes orders until 5 on Wednesday. Pick up is on Thursday between 4 to 7 p.m. Cash is not accepted, but you can prepay and place orders online.