When Michael Weirich’s research position at Vanderbilt University went belly up last summer because of the pandemic, he had to find something else to do with his time. Knowing of his love of cooking, his mother joked that he should create a “restaurant out of our house,” and the aspiring entrepreneur was off and running. In July, Weirich launched Restaurant Confluence, a month-long pop-up dining experience at his parents’ home. This month, he’s back with a new winter menu and weekly takeout options.
“The name came from the fact that this represents the confluence of many of my passions and life experiences: chemistry and food, food and business, intensity in the kitchen and tranquility in the dining room,” says Weirich, a chemical engineering student minoring in nanotechnology at Vanderbilt. “I love to understand the chemistry behind cooking and baking, and I think that this passion for science as well as my creative side combine perfectly in the art form of gastronomy.”
A fan of chefs like Gordon Ramsey, Thomas Keller, and Grant Achatz, the 19-year-old uses sous vide meats, foams, reverse spherification, and other techniques to add surprising elements to his dishes. For example, Weirich’s seared scallop with fennel velouté, celeriac crisps, key lime foam, and pickled apples combines light, contrasting flavors and textures with a hint of molecular gastronomy. The dish includes a “false” scallop made from a royal trumpet mushroom from Jungle Jim’s.
Weirich, a graduate of the Seven Hills School, says he learned some cooking techniques from his Lebanese-Italian grandmother and uncle during annual holiday visits, but the majority of his knowledge comes from YouTube, cookbooks, TV, and his experiences traveling and eating. In addition, he’s had opportunities to cook during his travels abroad, taking lessons from chefs in Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
He hopes to continue his pop-up dining venture as a side business during and after college. He also wants to start a food-based charity in the future.
“I love that food is a unique medium that can bring together people from many different cultures and backgrounds to the same table, smiling and eating as a community,” Weirich says. “Cooking and eating at unique restaurants will always be my passion and I hope to continue it as I grow up.”
For an in-person experience at Restaurant Confluence, diners can choose from two multi-course menus, starting at $145. Takeout options start at $39. Seating is limited to one indoor table per night of six to eight patrons. Visit Restaurant Confluence’s website for more information.