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$114,420 pledged of $500,000 goal
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By Nguyen Tran
$114,420 pledged of $500,000 goal
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About

WHOA we're over 20%.. we can DO THIS TOGETHER!! Get them rewards people ^_^
WHOA we're over 20%.. we can DO THIS TOGETHER!! Get them rewards people ^_^

"BALLS!!!" The Crispy Tofu balls (which you can get the FULL recipe for as a reward for ONLY $35!) our most popular dish+one of the last dishes created out of our apartment too- #SaveOurBalls!
"BALLS!!!" The Crispy Tofu balls (which you can get the FULL recipe for as a reward for ONLY $35!) our most popular dish+one of the last dishes created out of our apartment too- #SaveOurBalls!
  

CURRENT PRESS:

SO MANY WORDS, where do I FIND what I want?!?

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  • Intro
  • Starry Kitchen Recap
  • The Go Big, or Go HOME Moment
  • Where? (quick answer: staying in CHINATOOOWN)
  • Budget Breakdown (aka "Why so much?!")
  • Plan B? (quick answer: there is NO Plan B ^_^)
  • Timeline
  • Are we real? (aka other press we've been in over the years)
  • FOOD P0RN (the most important section in ALL the interwebs)
Our other signature dish: the Singaporean Chili Crab. There are only a handful of restaurants in N. America that makes this dish (we didn't know that until we started making it LOL)
Our other signature dish: the Singaporean Chili Crab. There are only a handful of restaurants in N. America that makes this dish (we didn't know that until we started making it LOL)

I'll keep the beginning of this simple.  We've accomplished a lot, made a LOT of mistakes in 5.5 years and moved three times (you can find us HERE right now) to get us to where we are today as a still existing+relevant Asian Fusion restaurant in the super competitive market of Los Angeles.  We've also proven our staying power statistically BEATING the most common restaurant closing statistic three times over, namely:

Most restaurants close within the first year...

(first move = 2.5 years; second move = 1 year; third move = 1.5 years ^_^)

The Current Din-Dins (aka DINNER) Menu
The Current Din-Dins (aka DINNER) Menu

We've found a new passion in life; made a TON of new friends and found that we have a talent for giving a crazy experience serving incredible Asian food that many people haven't had before OR haven't had in a long time... and that last reason alone is ENOUGH for us to strive to make this thing (Starry Kitchen) happen.

BUT I think a brief history of Starry Kitchen is in order so that YOU, our potential new fan/customer/donor and most importantly FRIEND (more friends are NEVER a bad thing) can understand WHY this is so important to us and WHY we're doing it (it's a pretty good story at the very least ^_^).

Humbler + Unknown Beginnings (aka from our apartment!)
Humbler + Unknown Beginnings (aka from our apartment!)

STARRY KITCHEN RECAP:

After the financial collapse of ’08 everyone was scrambling and we were no different.  My wife had been laid off from her job in the Advertising industry, I was working as an independent producer/film sales agent in Hollywood scrambling to make a buck and both of us looking for a new way to survive.  That’s when my (super talented) wife started cooking and posting her exotic creations onto to Facebook.  All of our friends were super impressed by her talent and were begging for us to open a restaurant, and that is what we did... with a non-so-traditional beginning.

Eggyolk p0rn: (from the pop-up) Vietnamese Minced Beef-tacular w/ Fried-egg-liciousness
Eggyolk p0rn: (from the pop-up) Vietnamese Minced Beef-tacular w/ Fried-egg-liciousness
My wife, our Kitchen Ninja at an event called Test Kitchen
My wife, our Kitchen Ninja at an event called Test Kitchen

May of 2009 my wife/partner/best friend/executive chef/Kitchen Ninja and I started an Illegal+Underground restaurant out of the back of our apartment that we called... STARRY KITCHEN!  And it took off WAY faster than we had anticipated eventually making our apartment the #1 Asian Fusion restaurant listing in ALL of Los Angeles (our apartment!?!)  

People crammed into our apartment during the last days of the Illegal+Underground V.2 (the "Black Ops" days)
People crammed into our apartment during the last days of the Illegal+Underground V.2 (the "Black Ops" days)

We got too BIG: people, Yelpers and eventually the press finding out about our story leading to us being found and shut down by the health department.  But I didn't care and ran it for another 3 months "black ops"-style while we were coincidentally already in the process of finally moving into a real+permitted "brick+mortar" spot.

Get your mind outta the gutter, we're talking about our Crispy Tofu Balls OF COURSE!
Get your mind outta the gutter, we're talking about our Crispy Tofu Balls OF COURSE!

February of 2010 marked the LEGITIMATE launch of Starry Kitchen in a legit brick+mortar space that we took over from friends, and that eventually went viral for us to crowds and busines we could only dreamt of.  Only problem, we didn't know how to really run a restaurant correctly, and neither did the people we took over the space from which led to just as many mistakes as our successes.  We had to learn on our own at a VERY fast rate.  

Team SK + our French Chef friend Laurent Quenioiux in front of our first+formerly "REAL" brick+mortar lunch restaurant
Team SK + our French Chef friend Laurent Quenioiux in front of our first+formerly "REAL" brick+mortar lunch restaurant

The Go BIG, or GO HOME MOMENT!

After 5.5 years, those personal mistakes eventually led to having to sell our space, becoming a pop-up, moving two more times, fending for ourselves to keeping our employees and customers with us, finally landing in Chinatown as part of this amazing revitalization that's happening as we speak AND keeping Starry Kitchen ALIVE!

What success we HAVE had has all come from us NOT playing by the rules.  Whenever we play by "the rules" we've always failed, but every time we break them and make our own rules: us, our staff and ultimately our customers ALL win.  Not everyone will understand that, and that's OK because we're happy to help lead EVERYONE to greener and tastier (Asian) pastures on this journey for all that support us and not alike.

FRESH Noodle Garlic Noodles (aka "the make-out noodles") made w/ rendered chicken fat and clarified Irish brown butter... because we CAN! :)
FRESH Noodle Garlic Noodles (aka "the make-out noodles") made w/ rendered chicken fat and clarified Irish brown butter... because we CAN! :)

So it's time to get back to having a REAL brick-and-mortar again, BUT do it right, go BIG and have a place that truly feels like STARRY KITCHEN the moment you walk in... or GO HOME.  No half-assing it.  We don't like it, customers don't like it, the staff doesn't like it.. no one likes it, so we're not going to do it UNLESS we can do it right.

We want to stay in Chinatown and continue to be part of the community of #theNewKidsofChinatown, apply all the success we've been lucky to experience and MOST importantly the lessons of failure as well as we forge on to be crazier and tastier than we can ever imagine possible.

I CAN be serious+I know how to operate a restaurant sometimes TOO
I CAN be serious+I know how to operate a restaurant sometimes TOO

WHERE ARE YOU GOING+DO YOU HAVE A PLACE?

Yup and YUP! We're staying in... CHINATOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWN and have a place two blocks from our current pop-up so we can stick around the neighborhood we love!

CUT TO THE CHASE: "THIS STORY IS GREAT, BUT YOU SOUND CRAZY AND HOW IS IT REALLY $500K?!?":

The simple answer: I may sound crazy, but there is no room to "break the rules" when it comes to the COST of opening a full fledged restaurant.

Short anecdote: our friend that opens Chipotle-style "counter-service"/fast-casual restaurants (no bar or anything special) spends an average of $600,000+ building out his restaurants. 

In our 4.5 years of experience being "legit" we found this to be true too often: saving money (in the wrong places) can easily cost MUCH more money in the long run.  

Expensive mistakes affects not only the bank account, but also the staff and customer experience.  And when the customer experience suffers, the business can't make the money to pay for those mistakes anymore.

This # below is THE cost of building and operating in an existing restaurant (and can get much higher) with the look+feel we're aiming for.  These estimates were built together with a small and very experienced team (all three of us combined equal ~35+ years of experience) that includes:

  • our designer, Kellie Patry, who's been the lead designer on projects big and small including hotels, bars, restaurants and even coffee shops
  • Chris McIntosh, former Director of Operations for the the LA burger chain, Umami Burger. Specifically oversaw the budgets, build outs and full opening+execution of many of their locations, and also built and successfully sold his own restaurant recently as well
Inside our current pop-up at Grand Star Jazz Club
Inside our current pop-up at Grand Star Jazz Club

This estimate is based on getting a ~2000 square foot (sq ft) space (80+ seats with a small bar).

Rather than debate about why an industrial workhorse food processor (Robot Coupe) is $900 vs a $50 home one, let's jump into the major line items that sets this in reality:

  • $25k - Kickstarter's cost (5%)
  • $25k - Amazon payments (5%, Kickstarter's credit card processing partner to process your pledges)
After Kickstarter+Amazon, we only have $450k in actual funds to work with:

  • $175,000 - Current Market Rate Construction on a 2000 sq ft space (full kitchen, dining room, bar remodel)
  • $50k - Furniture (mid-level quality: chairs, tables, bar tables, stools including extras for larger parties and general replenishment)
  • $25k - Food Service Equipment (plates, glassware, stemware and silverware to start with)
  • $20k - Beer and Wine License (license and price of consultant to jump through city hoops)
  • $15k - Floor Repair (city approved repairs and fixes before opening)
  • $15k - Plumbing Repair (city approved repairs and fixes before opening)
  • $10k - Opening food inventory (gotta get the food to make and sell ^_^)
  • $7k - Restroom repair (city approved repairs and fixes before opening)

These are the major items that budget is made up of.  Some #'s are more flexible than others, but we have to be responsible and account for delays, going over-budget, and the unexpected.  

This also doesn't include:

  • $50k - ~1+ month Operating Budget (staff payroll not including management for a 6 day a week lunch and dinner restaurant when NOT overstaffed)
  • Security deposit on a lease, maintenance contracts, daily wear-and-tear repairs, daily linens and uniforms, accounting, advertising/marketing
  • whatever is left: to pay back those that helped us from the beginning

CONCLUSION: MAYBE we're not so crazy after all and it DOES add up! :)

SO who's READY to join us on this tasty journey.. HUZZAH!
SO who's READY to join us on this tasty journey.. HUZZAH!

"IS THERE A PLAN B?"

NOPE, this IS the plan and our LAST STAND. This is not the "Go Big or Go to Plan B Moment!"  We're going to give it our ALL and we're putting all our eggs in THIS basket. We hope you'll support (and enjoy the eggs while you're at it too) :)

"OK, NO PLAN B.. SO WHAT IS THE TIMELINE?"

IF these crazy shenanigans ACTUALLY goes through (it COULD happen!!):

  • Feb 1st - close of Kickstarter campaign
  • Feb 10th - 13th - secure funds through Amazon Payments
  • Feb 13th - 18th - evaluate what can be cleaned up for a Chinese New Year soft launch/opening announcement
  • Feb 18th - test run
  • Feb 19th - Feb 22nd - Chinese New Year soft opening to take advantage of HUGE influx of walking traffic
  • Feb 23rd - March 16th - close down for full 21 days construction/renovation of space
  • Mid-March - Kickstarter Backers party, Friends+Family Test and.. hopefully OPEN if construction stays
So what say you, you IN?!?! (pretty please?!? ^_^)
Pandan Churros w/ a Coco Kaya Cream Sauce
Pandan Churros w/ a Coco Kaya Cream Sauce

"YOU GUYS SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE ON CRACK, ARE YOU REALLY... REAL?!"

You bet your bottom dollar we're real!  Until I put together some fancy-ass press logos, here are just some of places we've been written about, mentioned or seen on:

"TOO MUCH JIBBA JABBA, I WANT MORE FOOD P0RN"

"Ask and ye shall receive" (aka we got your back! ;D)

Malaysian Chicken Curry
Malaysian Chicken Curry
Pandan Chicken
Pandan Chicken
(yet to be served, and most likely one of the KICKSTARTER ONLY DISHES): the even more elusive Singaporean Black Pepper Crab
(yet to be served, and most likely one of the KICKSTARTER ONLY DISHES): the even more elusive Singaporean Black Pepper Crab
Double-friend Tangy Korean Chicken WAAAAAAAAAAAAANGS
Double-friend Tangy Korean Chicken WAAAAAAAAAAAAANGS
Cured Pork Belly for the Roast Pork Belly XO Fried Rice
Cured Pork Belly for the Roast Pork Belly XO Fried Rice
Salted Plum Lychee Panna Cotta
Salted Plum Lychee Panna Cotta

Risks and challenges

I've personally worked in two of the HARDEST industries to crack (I'm what some call a "glutton for punishment", but I kind of love these industries): film/tv and restaurants. Both are equally challenging, but somehow I've survived in both.

The main issue with owning a restaurant is, we're at the whims of diners, their appetites and even proximity. People cannot be forced to try us, our food or any restaurant in Los Angeles until they're ready AND is convenient to them because the reputation about Los Angeles traffic: it's true! What could normally take 30 minutes without traffic can become 1 hour and 30 minutes. Bottom line, they must want to, whether it be from previous experience, word of mouth, Yelp or literally just being on our front door step with the option of being hungry or not.

"We're in the business of being CONSISTENT": consistent timing, consistent taste, consistent attitude, consistent feel, consistent response and consistent communication amongst the staff"

The primary issue for Starry Kitchen IS being fully capitalized, including to be able to pay our staff consistently and on time who have been loyal to Starry Kitchen since day one! Another issue for us is to be able to weather storms that come with launching a unique, kicka$$ Asian restaurant in Los Angeles. In addition to ensuring CONSISTENCY whether the restaurant only has one table w/ people, or is completely packed. As a restaurant, we only have one chance to make a first impression, and once a customer decides to walk in through our doors- as brazen as I may come off, we recognize it is OUR business to lose (or win) and when we can't service people consistently, or consistently impress them giving them a reason to come back because we're trying to save a buck or two, or because we I can't financially justify employing people during a slow period; THAT'S how we LOSE business, which at this point is something my wife and I are unwilling to sacrifice. We want to do it right, make the right decisions for us and our customers, and grow the business so people will want to come back, bring their friends, families, loved ones and grow with us.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    THANKS FOR BEING A PAL, HAVE A FREE PAL-ENDAR ON US:

    Any support we can get is worth while, please share our Kickstarter and.. thanks PAL! Just for that, you get a... PAL-ENDAR (it's a hilarious digital calendar of pictures of ME and our food for all you, my PALS) to share.

    ACT NOW, and we'll create a whole new month of the year that we'll add on to give you added value because.. we care!

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    GET YOUR NAME ON OUR WALL..PAPER:

    We want to create a wall paper out of YOUR names to thank you for your support and for being part of this journey. The more names, the more support, the BETTER (btw, if we only get 1 name, that doesn't mean that name will be HUGE on our wall.. unless it's a hilarious name and looks cool that is ^_^)

    +get a PAL-ENDAR TOO (if you want ;D)

    (ALL reward levels more than $10 will get their name on this wallpaper)

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    JUST WANNA SUPPORT SK:

    Support us+our crazyiness, then we'll support YOU w/ a Limited Edition Starry Kitchen x Stupid Cancer MIDDLE FINGER (to cancer, not you) wristband. People will love you MORE just because of this

    (that is not necessarily a fact as much as a prediction of your potentially increased popularity for having supported us ^_^)

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    $30 worth of food.. for ONLY $20! "YES!"

    You just want to eat, and get a good deal for helping us out. We get it! This is for you, so here you go. Thank YOU!

    -can be bought in ANY multiple of $20 ($40 for $60; $60 for $90; $100 for $150 OF FOOD.. whoa NELLY!)
    -IS transferrable (as a gift[s] OR for someone else)
    -does NOT include gratuity, tax OR alcohol (sorry, Kickstarter's crazy rules!)
    -cannot be used with any other discounts
    -each certificate is a one time use certificate w/ no cash value+no credit for unused balances

    (maximum of 10 gift certificate redemptions a night)

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    FREE BALLS FOR SAVING OUR BALLS:

    Get the coveted PAL-ENDAR+your name on the wall paper+the wristband (which'll have waiting for you at the restaurant)+a FREE order of our infamous Crispy Tofu Balls to enjoy... "in your MOUF!"

    (Limit 10 redemption per day so we can keep our balls in EVERYONE'S MOUTHS!)

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    ALL OF OUR RECIPES... FOR HELPING US SAVE OUR RESTAUANT!

    You can't come to LA, love the food pics and want ALL the recipes from our pop-up menu that made us ONE of the LA Times 101 Best Restaurants WITH support videos from us for the most popular+difficult recipes (Thomas Keller didn't give you that kind of personal support when you bought his pretty cookbook, did HE?! ^_^)

    CATCH: if we don't get all the $$, you don't get the recipes! Spread the word, get ALL of our recipes (including the BALLS + the elusive Singaporean Chili Crab that ONLY 8 places in N.America make) and help us #SaveOurBALLS"

    -recipes will be delivered digitally
    -will be the actual restaurant spec/tech sheets, no fancy pages (but we'll give you pictures), and customized for single/family servings

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    TOO MUCH TALK, LETS PARTY!

    Get your name on our wallpaper +
    One COVETED ticket to a fully catered (Pork Belly XO Fried Rice, Garlic Noodles, Malaysian Chicken Curry, BALLS and ALL) party with recreational beverages JUST for our Kickstarter peeps (sure to be some free schwag waitin' for y'all too).

    If there's too many people, we'll throw as MANY parties as it takes OR get the biggest venue in the history of mankind (or whatever's more convenient) that we need to until we feed ALL OF YOU because THAT'S the SK WAY! :)

    -any multiple of $50 will get you more invites as well.. THANKS!

    (every pledge above $50 is automatically invited as well)

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    BALLS STYLE:

    Get ALL the stuff above (BALLS, wristband, wallpaper name AND.. the PAL-ENDAR) AND a limited edition "ENJOY OUR BALLS IN YOUR MOUF" Starry Kitchen x Stupid Cancer t-shirt that you can wear and bring joy (for saving our balls) to others!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    1 REDEEMABLE - BANANA SUIT SERVICE:

    I love my banana suit, and I love wearing it even more when I'm managing. This can be redeemed in multiple ways:

    a) I can serve in it (when redeemed w/ multiple supporters, I will just amp up the energy.. maybe even bring out my megaphone ^_^)
    b) If you don't live in LA, you can tweet/facebook/instagram that I serve and take a pic to post
    c) Or request a private and personal bananagram that I'll share through all my social media and tag YOU too :)

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    KICKSTARTER ONLY MEAL:

    (this reward can be combined in multiples of 2 for a BIG parTAY reservation)

    All physical+digital schwag above (wristband) +t-shirts+PAL-ENDAR)+a multi-course omakase/surprise meal for 2 AND a very special dish we will ONLY serve to our Kickstarter supporters at this spot and NO ONE ELSE (unless they supported like YOU too) for our first year of operation.

    Your support means a lot to us, so this is the least we can do (and it's gonna be TASTAY)

    (LIMITED to 2 parties a day, and must be booked at least one week in advance)

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    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    EAT+THEN "CRAWL" WITH US:

    First we feed you, and then we feed us and we'll take to tour+"crawl" into the underbelly of LA to a couple of places where we and most cooks in LA eat+drink after we put our heart+souls into feeding you.

    (Limit 2 parties per day, and must be booked at least a week in advance.. so I can sober up :D)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    INVITED TO PRIVATE R+D TEST TASTINGS:

    We have over 150+ items we've crazily thought of, but haven't even begun to test yet. Once we have our own place again, we can get CRAZY developing again and include you in the invites (probably once a month) that will be invited every time do a test and give real feedback too.

    (we'll also make sure you're fed as well ^_^)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    COOKING+EATING CLASS:

    Let's not forget, you can't have a cooking class without actually eating the food too!

    Two spots in our cooking class+meal, two "BALLS IN YOUR MOUTH" t-shirts, two middle finger wrist bands

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    DINNER+YOUR MUSIC = PRETTY MUCH YOUR RESTAURANT:

    Make it feel like YOUR restaurant: Kickstarter only dish dinner for 2, YOUR playlist that you built (from our 890+ GuiltyPleasurePopMusic list OR a pre-approved custom list), and only ONE table can dominate our dining playlist at a time (2 hrs of music)

    -booked at least 24 hours in advance
    -if custom playlist, at least 72 hours in advance and will need to be pre-approved
    -can be combined w/ additional Kickstarter ONLY meals ($300) to increase size of party

    UPGRADE OPTIONS:
    -curate the playlist for the whole night (will need a playlist for 3+ hours) = $700
    -dinner for the week+curate music for the week (6 days for the price of 4) = $2800
    -included dinners must be redeemed (but is transferrable) on days music is being curated

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  15. Select this reward

    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    BALLS JOKES+CURSE WORD BLACK OUT or BARRAGE:

    You get to choose that I do one or the other with your table, and watch hilariously as I navigate the room to remember who did or didn't want it (assuming this is a popular option) as you enjoy your omakase dinner for 4 w/ a KICKSTARTER ONLY DISH

    I'm infamous (read the Yelp reviews, love me or hate me.. they really like to WRITE about me for some reason LOL) for my unabashed love for BALLS humor and passionately cursing about how much I xxxxxxx LOVE this or xxxxxxx LOVE that (but insert an expletive possibly starting with the letter 'F').

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  16. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    DINNER FOR FOUR.. WITH ME!

    Because of your generosity has helped us afford actual quality management to work run+grow+MANAGE this restaurant for me, and I can sit down with your party of 4 for your entire (covered by this reward) meal. Tell you ALL the stories of what we've done, how we did it, hilarious anecdotes, potential cooking secrets, order for you and more than likely order more food (if not off-the-menu stuff) than you originally ordered.

    There might be a shared recreational beverage or two as well (btw, I don't normally EVER drink on the job), and I can't commit here because of pesky Kickstarter "rules" BUT I'll definitely consider it ^_^

    (limited to 2 per week, and booked in at least 1 week in advance)

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    UNICORN TATTOOS (aka "Yes mom, I'm selling my body for $$"):

    For supporters as crazy (in general+about unicorns+Starry Kitchen) as me, I'm willing to get 5 limited edition permanent Unicorn (aka the National Animal of Scotland) TATTOOS on my left inner forearm that will include a caricature of YOUR FACE on a body riding that same very UNICORN. If there were ever a way to bow down to you for your tremendous support, this is MY way of saying "Thank you!"

    While a fun joke at bars, it's not a joke that I love unicorns, and being able to tell people great stories of how I "sold my body" for unicorn tattoos that helped make our restaurant dreams come true is just another plus... HUZZAH!

    And get the WHOLE pack of Starry Kitchen x Stupid Cancer goodies (pen, wristband, t-shirt, stickers, coffee mug and etc)

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    OWN US, OWN OUR RESTAURANT AND OUR ENTIRE MENU FOR A NIGHT

    Maybe you don't want a unicorn tattoo, names on the wall or other craziness and just want to rally together with you and your 40 favorite friends (or maybe employees). WE will close down our restaurant, feed y'all a smorgasbord of 10+ courses on ANY Sunday-Thursday FOR you. You get it, we make you the food, you can listen to whatever you want and dare I say it.. maybe we'll even have a karaoke system where you can go BONKERS singing with/against/solo some George Michael, Journey and Selena Gomez (ok, maybe I'm just sing the Selena Gomez, but no one else has to know that.. NO ONE!)

    (booked 1 month in advance, unless you convince us otherwise ^_^)

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    TAKING STARRY KITCHEN ON THE ROAD (TO YOU!)

    You can't come to LA? Well why don't we come to YOU and just bring the party, the banana suit and cater food for YOU+your 20 closest friends!

    (because WHY NOT!?)

    -must be booked at least 2 months in advance
    -CAN be a larger sized party, but will be portioned more for snacking/trying our food
    -includes standard reasonable travel+lodging (anything extenuating we'll figure out w/ y'all)
    -does NOT include cost of local kitchen+serving staff (every city is different!), silverware, plateware (unless it's all paper plates+plastic cups), glassware, serving, kitchen equipment+storage rental and venue rental
    -will need access to a (preferably an industrial) kitchen to prep in for 2-3 days prior to event

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Funding period

- (30 days)