Four years ago, Esperanza Castillo and Brian Runge were living a mile away from downtown Chicago, invested in the community, and enjoying the culinary perks of urban life. They’re no strangers to hospitality, as they’d both enjoyed careers at Michelin-starred restaurant Graham Elliot — Brian as Chef de Cuisine and Esperanza as an assistant manager — among other places. To them, dining has always been as much about the experience as it’s been about the food.
When they relocated to Knoxville, which was a homecoming for Esperanza, who grew up in Maryville, the couple started scanning the restaurant scene. There was plenty of good food and great people, but they couldn’t find the culinary experiences they’d been used to. So, the answer came easy: they’d create it themselves.
“Seeing how Knoxville was beginning to grow, and it felt like there were a lot of people similar to us, trying to transplant and root here, we wanted those people to feel at home,” says Esperanza. “My husband is a chef, and I have reception and hotel experience, so we decided to create our own hospitality concept. We’re a modern, multi-course hospitality concept that doesn’t exist here.”
The concept bypasses brick-and-mortar restaurants altogether and opts instead for pop-up dinners, in-home dining, and private events. Working out of Real Good Kitchen, Transplant & Root has hosted ten public events, two private tables, and one philanthropic event, all centered around creative, high quality dishes and the kind of service that goes beyond what restaurant-goers would find elsewhere.
“The elegance doesn’t lie in the china or white coats. The elegance happens at the table. We don’t come in with stiff service. We come in with our personalities and hospitality,” says Esperanza. “We’re fully outfitted, but we also bring our heart and soul. Our food is engaging, so we talk about our cuisine. We’re here to connect the cuisine to the guests around the table.”
How It Works
If you’re interested in a Transplant & Root Hospitality dining experience, the first step is to contact Esperanza either via social media, email, or phone call to let her know the number of guests you have in mind plus any dietary restrictions you may have in the group. Once a date has been selected, Esperanza works with Brian to develop the menu and a proposal is sent. Once booked, they schedule an in-home consultation to make proper introductions and survey the space. Payment is due across three installments, first at booking, then midway, with the final payment due 72 hours prior to the event. Brian preps the food at Real Good Kitchen, and they show up the day of the event with everything needed to create an unforgettable evening.
“Transplant & Root Hospitality is inclusive, futuristic, and adaptable. We understand that dining with us is an adventure, so you have to be a little curious,” says Esperanza. “It’s all customizable, so we can get really creative. Our last guest, as we were leaving, gave us the highest compliment. It was for her husband’s 60th birthday, and there were only six people. She said, ‘The way you made us feel in our home is never how we’ve felt in a restaurant.’ A table with us is a table of connection.”
For more information or to inquire about scheduling an event, visit TransplantandRoot.com.