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Japanese Pop-Up Kitsune Heads to Burlington

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Dinner from Kitsune - SALLY POLLAK ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sally Pollak ©️ Seven Days
  • Dinner from Kitsune

A Stowe pop-up that serves Japanese food will make its debut at the Burlington Farmers Market on July 24. The mobile eatery, Kitsune, is run by chef Matt Hiebsch and his wife, Alina Alter. It serves a rotating menu of Japanese-inspired casual cuisine, including yakitori (skewered meats grilled over charcoal), donburi (rice bowls) and hiyashi chuka (chilled ramen).

"Part of this project is to be flexible," Hiebsch said. "We started indoors, and we were doing izakaya food — and we're going into this next [outdoor and mobile] phase."

Hiebsch, 40, is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who's worked in restaurants in Philly and New York City, including as a line cook at Michelin-starred River Café in Brooklyn. Three years ago, the couple moved from Philadelphia to Stowe, where Hiebsch continued running the catering business, Speck, that he'd started in Philadelphia. He described it as a "smaller, boutique" company that served new American and modern European food.

He stopped doing that after "the pandemic hit, and I just kind of changed my mindset a little bit," Hiebsch said. "I wasn't connecting with the food or the people that I was serving as much. It just felt kind of weird."

Always a lover of Japanese food, Hiebsch became interested in cooking and serving that cuisine. Now he travels with a grill that burns Binchotan charcoal made from oak at about 700 degrees. Imported from Japan, the charcoal keeps its tree-limb shape.

"As a chef, it's extremely humbling, because you can't just turn on a switch," Hiebsch said of burning Binchotan and cooking on a konro grill. "I'm still learning."

Kitsune will be outside the Butchery at 504 Mountain Road in Stowe on Friday, July 9, from 5 to 8 p.m., and begin a string of dates at the Burlington Farmers Market on July 24. (Find updates at kitsunevt.com or on Instagram at @kitsune_vt.)

"Philosophically, it's kind of a departure from other experiences we've pursued," Hiebsch said. "When we introduce our business, it's more focused on honoring this food than stroking our egos. It's a very DIY situation."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Kitsune Coming"

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