Wheels in the Kitchen: Positive Vibe to Pitch a Three-Course Pop-Up in July 

click to enlarge Chefs Jenson Larrimore and Ernie La Breque have created a Latin American-influenced feast for Positive Vibe Cafe’s first pop-up dinner on July 16.

Ash Daniel

Chefs Jenson Larrimore and Ernie La Breque have created a Latin American-influenced feast for Positive Vibe Cafe’s first pop-up dinner on July 16.

It all started in Maui. For most, the Hawaiian island might as well be paradise — it’s jam-packed with gorgeous beaches, dramatic mountains and perfect weather.

Jenson Larrimore, a 2013 Style Top 40 under 40 recipient, thought so, too. He was exploring the possibility of opening a restaurant there. But one night 10 years ago, the Richmond native and veteran of Buckhead’s and Mamma ’Zu was riding his moped and was hit by car. Larrimore was paralyzed from the waist down.

“I was wondering how I could do this,” he says, gesturing to his wheelchair, “let along fathom how to have a life.”

With the help of a peer mentor who had the same injury, Larrimore began to see a future, albeit a different one than he’d imagined. He began Students for Disability Advocacy and Awareness at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he graduated with a degree in health psychology. He’s also been active in the Virginia chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

Now 35, Larrimore has a different view of the accident than he did when he was younger.

“You know, things end up working out exactly how they’re supposed to,” he says. “I genuinely believe that. That was a jagged pill to swallow after I was injured, but nonetheless, I do believe my being injured has meaning — has significance.”

And Larrimore still wants to get into the kitchen. Garth Larcen, founder of both the Positive Vibe Foundation and Max’s Positive Vibe Cafe in the Stratford Hills Shopping Center, thought he would be the ideal person to launch a new pop-up series. So Larrimore and Positive Vibe’s chef Ernie La Breque will join forces July 16 to present the first dinner at the Mobility Supercenter on Midlothian Turnpike.

It’s a chance for Larrimore to stretch his fine-dining wings again, he says. And since the dinner is scheduled for the middle of July, he and La Breque decided to go with Latin-American-influenced fare.

“It’s a fresh, vibrant palette,” La Breque says. “I really dig doing peasant food in a fine-dining setting.”

Among the dishes served, you’ll find an impossibly tender mojo pork shoulder, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery beer-braised red beans and a plantain, sweet potato and russet potato gratin with citrus dusts and savory foams woven throughout the menu. For vegans, the two chefs have concocted a field roast filling for masa tamales with quinoa that sounds just as good as any of the other choices.

“It’s not an afterthought,” La Breque says. “This is something that is as well thought-out and planned and has as much passion behind it as its meat counterparts.”

To create a dinner for 100 at the Mobility Supercenter, as much food as possible will have to be prepped beforehand, but both chefs say they’re looking forward to the challenge.

“All wheelchair users have a bit of MacGyver in them,” Larrimore says.

Positive Vibe’s pop-up dinner is Saturday, July 16, at 6 p.m., at the Mobility Supercenter at 7450 Midlothian Turnpike. It includes three courses, plus beer and wine for $35. For details, call 560-9622 or visit positiveviberva.com.

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