Yoni Reinharz talks to us winning a reality TV series and opening up the Twin Cities’ first real Jamaican restaurant. Did we mention he raps with Matisyahu?
You are the artist-in-residence at the Sabes JCC this year. What does that entail? What have you been working on?
As artist-in-residence, I’ve been a go-between in the JCC’s artists’ lab between the facilitators and the rest of the artists. I’m both creating new programming and experiencing the lab as an artist with fresh eyes.
One of the projects I led along with lab artist Liba Zweigbaum Herman was giving the artists in the lab household objects that could hold water. I recorded everyone creating sounds on their “instruments” and added in rhythm to create a symphony of sounds. I took the raw audio and edited it, then set that to a time-lapse video that one artist had made in last year’s lab. That’s what my piece was in gallery showing.
You wrote and produced an original song for the Sabes JCC as part of your residency, too?
I was actually hired to write and perform a song for the JCC’s big fundraiser gala. The first verse is about me growing up in St. Louis Park. Then, I talk about my three year-old daughter going to the ECB program, making friends, learning…having these same experiences. It’s my story as part of this community. I’ve lived in the Twin Cities my whole life.
Who have you collaborated with as a musician?
I’ve done a lot of collaborations with Matisyahu over the last ten years. I was the featured vocalists on the track “Beatbox” from his first record, “Live at Stubb’s”. I’ve also worked with the rapper/artist Dessa from Doom Tree. Her and I were in our first rap group together called Medida.
Tell me about your new restaurant project serving Jamaican cuisine, Pimento. What don’t you do?!
People ask me all the time how I ended up opening a Jamaican restaurant. I’m “Jew-maican”, I say.
I got into food in general when I inherited a mobile coffee truck. I fell into that opportunity and I really liked that environment. But, the profit margins of coffee compared to food in a mobile restaurant are really low, so I started to think of going into the food truck business. My friend and neighbor, who is now my business partner, was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. We connected over music, then food. I pitched him my restaurant idea and he lit up. He went into his file cabinet and busted out a ten-year-old business plan he had developed in college. That evolved into Pimento: a fast-casual restaurant serving food at a low price point with healthy, accessible Jamaican food.
The following year we were on the reality TV show Food Court Wars on the Food Network and we won! Our prize for winning the show was a free year of rent in the Burnsville mall and some money towards build-out costs. Now, we’re getting set to open a brick-and-mortar location in the heart of Minneapolis on 26th and Nicollet, right on Eat Street. We have a kickstarter campaign going to get the restaurant opened.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
It’s got to be Purim. It’s a party holiday that’s fun for kids, but with a serious undertone about what we have continually experienced as a people.
Why are you folkin’ awesome?
I would say what’s folkin’ awesome about me is not only do I have pretty big dreams but a proven track record of making them come true. But I never lose focus on being the best dad I can be. That’s still my number one priority.
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