B.J. Novak, Otium Chef Tim Hollingsworth Launch Pop-Up, Chain, to Serve Gourmet Takes on Popular Franchise Dishes

John Mayer, B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images; Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic; Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

From left: John Mayer, B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling enjoy Chain’s takes on comfort food favorites.

On March 7, B.J. Novak, with Otium chef Tim Hollingsworth, launched Chain, a WeHo pop-up that serves gourmet takes on dishes from TGIFridays, Chili's, California Pizza Kitchen and the like. Chain debuted with a limited-quantities version of Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion (dubbed the Bustin' Onion), followed by a March 21 drop of "The Sauce Box" with chicken tenders, french fries and a trio of BBQ, sweet truffle honey and black garlic ranch sauces.

The goods, which can only be preordered on Chain's private Instagram account (selling out in minutes, with The Sauce Box at $20), have gotten boosts from Mindy Kaling, John Mayer, Kaitlyn Dever, Ike Barinholtz and Kiernan Shipka posting the red-and-white takeout boxes on social media, despite ownership keeping a low profile.

Novak first discussed his "dream" of creating a chain-themed restaurant on Jordan Okun's Air Jordan: A Food Podcast in 2018, saying he still needed to find investors and a chef to partner with.

"The red leather booths, the onion blossoms, cheeseburger, all the classic items. The sports bar TVs. A big laminated menu," Novak envisioned, with the caveat there be only one brick-and-mortar location. That way, "you can put it in one of these chic neighborhoods that are all over L.A. or New York that will not allow a Chili's or a Fridays, will only allow one-of-a-kind restaurants. But put Chain there, which is where everyone just really wants to go, and just do it.”

This story first appeared in the March 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.