If you've been following former Steelbach chef Nathan Hardin's Instagram, he's been serving up serious wanderlust during his COVID-19 travels. Prior to the pandemic slamming the Tampa Bay food scene, Hardin parted ways with Armature Works for a much-needed separation from the professional kitchen in early March.
"After a lot of consideration and many years in the restaurant world, I felt it was time to take a little sabbatical," Hardin explained on a phone call with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Initially, the chef was planning to explore Southeast Asia, but when the pandemic dashed those travel plans, Hardin souped-up a Toyota FJ Cruiser to take a road trip exploring national parks throughout the nation.
"My original plan was to return to the restaurant world after my travels, but with the effects of COVID-19, it still proves to be a volatile time for the industry," Hardin said.
So rather than joining a brick-and-mortar kitchen, the chef is mixing up a little project of his own. With plans to announce his forthcoming project early 2021, Hardin wants to give local foodies a taste of what's to come with a pop-up this month.
Hardin joined forced with Pickford's Counter owners Benjamin Pomales and Adrianna Siller to host the "Cincinnati-ish Chili Pop-Up" on Sun., Dec. 20. From 3 p.m.-6 p.m. foodies can line up at Pickford's Counter (2606 W. Hillsborough Ave.) for the chef's twist on Skyline Chili classics.
"My whole family is from Ohio, Lancaster to be exact," reads an Instagram post announcing the pop-up event. "Growing up, we would take family trips up north around this time of year, and I shit you not, we would eat Skyline Chili almost every day."
The pop-up will offer the nearly extinct Skyline Chili eats including coneys, all the ways, nachos, burgers and oyster crackers. Expect lots of cheese and well as vegan versions of each menu item (the Skyline Chili chain has a handful of Florida locations, including one in Clearwater at 2045 Gulf to Bay Blvd.)
To get updates on Hardin's new culinary journey and announcements of his forthcoming project, you can follow along on Instagram (@nathanlhardin).
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