Made in Tribeca: Edenopolis

I love a good origin story and Richard Vanderplas — raised in Tribeca all but two of his 35 years — has one. The end of the story is Edenopolis, a boutique catering company that he runs out of his apartment in Independence Plaza and a tricked-out Sprinter van that you can spot parked on N. Moore.

He was working his way through City College as a yoga instructor when Integral Yoga, the city institution founded in 1970 on 13th Street, hired him as the head cook. The training there served him well: it took him all over the world as a chef at ashrams and music festivals (think Burning Man). For three years this was his lifestyle. He would just show up and get to work, cooking for bands and festival-goers — funding his own adventures with a cooktop. “Cooking was a way to pay the bills and then it took over my life,” he said.

Richard did a stint as a line cook and waiter at Danube, which he credits with developing his love of fine dining. But he found the aggressive head-chef power structure oppressive, and instead started working as a private chef, cooking sometimes out of his apartment (his steel tables and freezer are from the pizza joint that was once on the corner of N. Moore) and during the summers at Ocean Beach on Fire Island.

He was grilling at events in the Hamptons and working as a home chef, when one day in 2014 he was asked to do a party for 70 people. That was the start of Edenopolis.

“I can’t tell you the luck I’ve had with clients — I’ve met so many interesting people,” Richard said. He does a lot of events in the Hudson Valley, more here in Tribeca, and still does some work as a private chef.

What caught my eye about his work is the beauty and the invention in his displays, which always include flowers (not necessarily to eat but sometimes!). One of his specialties is the grazing table — something he has a real passion for. He has done events where dinner was literally served ON the table. He makes mini farms out of his displays, down to the edible dirt (black sesame seeds with cocoa powder) or the edible Christmas tree (a real tree, washed and hung with vegetables and fruit with a Buddha’s hand citron as the star on top). It’s art, and it is really really fun.

“I approach things with the wonder of a child — and I love to see people react,” Richard said. He runs themes — like the rainbow tower — and likes to create unusual pairings, like the jelly beans mixed in with cherry tomatoes. “I like being playful with things, I like screwing around but still making it taste great.”

His wanderlust has not dimmed, and he and his partner spend months of every year travelling. He has studied barbeque — another passion — all over the world; lived out of a camping car in Japan, bathing in a different onsen every day; explored Italy for pizza-making methods. (“One time I was in Sicily and came across one of the most amazing pizza shops ever. The crust was totally different — very airy and light. After I got to know them I discovered that the secret was that they used no yeast. The way they rose the dough was by mixing a huge mound, then letting it sit unrefrigerated on the counter for three days. It would collect natural yeast from the air and rise all on its own. Then Roman pizza is unique in that it is like a thin focaccia that is cut with scissors and sold by the gram. I could go on and on.”)

“I’m so hungry for exploration and travelling that I will lose business to do it, but it’s made me what I am today.”

His start as a yoga instructor clearly informed his work as a chef — he considers it more of a practice than an achievement, never uses recipes, never writes anything down, but instead starts with a memory of something he loved and tries to recreate that for clients — “a daily practice of forgetting everything and starting from scratch.”

And he always comes back to what started this whole thing to begin with: a good party. “I love celebrations. All the joy in my life comes from celebrating food with people.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Richard Vanderplas (@edenopolis)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Richard Vanderplas (@edenopolis)


1 Comment

  1. Wow. Love it all. I have always been so curious since always noticing the trademark van.