Disclosure: I am a poker fanatic almost as much as I enjoy food.

The growth of the food truck has opened a whole world of new food experiences. This includes not only ethnic and local cuisines not found in traditional restaurants, but also some very interesting fusions and one of a kind tastes. The mobility of the food trucks also provides the potential for a customers from a wide geographic area to be exposed to new foods. The impact on catering is yet to be fully appreciated.

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Though not as common, the pop-up restaurant theme is growing. Pop-up style restaurants were once confined mainly to festivals and fairs, but are no beginning to show up at a wide range of events.

One of the more interesting ones made its first appearance last year, and it is an odds on favorite to show up again in the near future.

The pop up restaurant was called the All-In Kitchen and it made its first appearance during the UK & Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) stop in London. The All-In Kitchen is perhaps the first interactive restaurant where the diner’s skill at poker decided the cost of the meal.

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Here’s how it worked: Prior to their meal, the diners played three hands of poker. At the end of the three hands, the amount of chips each player had determined the cost of the meal, which could range from £10 to £5 to free. Not a bad deal for a three course meal which would usually cost about £50 – and the meal even included a cocktail.

The entire purpose of the All-In Kitchen, the brainchild of Andy Jones of London’s Jones and Sons and PokerStars, was to have fun. No one paid more than £10 for their meal; the poker art of the dining experience was completely optional and no money was wagered. The upside, in addition to a bit of suspense and gamesmanship before the meal, was that dinner could be less expensive or even free. And as any experienced poker player can tell you, new and inexperienced players can have just as good of a chance as the pros.

Andy Jones, restaurateur and poker player said, “I love food and never shy away from the tables when I get the chance, so having the opportunity to create a menu that combines two of my favorite things was something I jumped at. Embracing poker within the dishes was a lot of fun and some of the dishes that hit the cutting room floor were a bit out there, but I can’t wait to see the results and serve up some Aces.”

The menu items reflected the All-In Kitchen’s poker theme with gourmet items such as “4 Of A Kind of Lamb Chops, Rump, Kidney and Shoulder With A Rosemary Jus,” “Royal Flush of King Crab Thermidor” and “2 Pair of Pear Tarte Tatin, Pear Caramel and Ice Cream.”

The UKIPT has stops scheduled in Nottingham, Marbella, Bristol, The Isle of Man, and Edinburgh through the end of 2015.

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The All In Kitchen’s gourmet menu is just one of the examples of the growing trend among poker players to eat healthier, gourmet foods.

The game that once lived up to the stereotype of old guys sitting around a table in a smoky room and whose idea of a “fancy” meal meant that hamburgers were served with lettuce and tomato has, thankfully, grown into one where the players understand the mental and physical benefits of a healthy diet and exercise.

One of the game’s early healthy diet advocates was Cyndy Violette. The WSOP bracelet winner often retired to her hotel room during dinner breaks to mediate and eat macrobiotic meals, which she credited for helping her become a champion. Violette recently opened a Vegan bistro in Las Vegas.

Daniel Negreanu, who sits at the top of poker all-time money winners list, is an outspoken advocate of a vegan lifestyle and often takes specially prepared meals with him to the poker table, something that Violette also does frequently.

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Lynn Gilmartin, a player and poker commentator is another devotee of healthy eating habits. Gilmartin has published recipe books, including one for smoothies, and stresses the importance of a healthy diet in order to function at one’s mental and physical best.

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Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of So Good Blog.

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