The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Chef Homaro Cantu Leaves Fate of Proposed Coffee Shop Up to Facebook

By Patty Wetli | December 16, 2013 5:12pm
Homaro Cantu Wants You to Like His Coffee Shop
View Full Caption

IRVING PARK — Homaro Cantu wants people to like his idea for a new kind of coffee shop.

Fifteen hundred people, on Facebook, to be precise.

Cantu created a Facebook page for the cafe, dubbed Berrista, last Friday and then launched a challenge at his neighbors in Old Irving Park: "Hi everyone, I am trying to open up a coffee shop in Old Irving Park. If you can get my facebook page up to 1,000 likes then I will probably do it."

By 9 p.m. that evening, Irving Park-ers had clicked their way to the target. "I would so be there every day," wrote the average commenter.

Cantu then upped the ante to 1,500. At press time, he was a little more than 100 "likes" shy of his latest goal.

Cantu told DNAinfo.com that he already had settled on a location in Irving Park for Berrista. The Facebook test is simply a way to stir up support.

"I know they want it," Cantu said of his neighbors.

Berrista promises to be a more accessible version of the chef's two Fulton Market restaurants, iNG and Moto.

The idea is to offer prices on par with Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, while experimenting with the mad scientist food technology that's become Cantu's hallmark.

Called "Chicago's other cutting-edge chef" by the New York Times — the first being Grant Achatz — Cantu has earned a reputation for altering flavors (called "flavor tripping") and the sort of molecular gastronomy that results in edible menus printed on flatbread.

Of late, it's the miracle berry that's captured his imagination, which he promotes with evangelical zeal.

Miracle fruit (technically, Synsepalum dulcificum), native to West Africa, contains a protein that latches onto the taste buds and makes sour things taste sweet, according to Cantu.

"When you eat a lemon, it tastes like lemonade," he explained.

At Berrista, he envisions miracle-berry-tablet-popping customers chowing on doughnuts that have the same sugary appeal as Dunkin's — with none of the sugar.

"The future of food is healthy junk food," he said.

"Nobody ever said, 'Boy I really enjoyed being on that diet,'" Cantu continued. The key to combating the country's obesity epidemic, he said, is providing fresh foods, sans artificial sweeteners, that can compete on the palate with the most decadent of pastries, at a fraction of the calories.

"The impending doom for sugar is out there," he said. "It's a matter of who gets there first."

Given a hundred more "likes," Cantu will be off to the races.