Travail restaurant Kickstarter campaign: $158K in a day

RICK NELSON | Updated 9/11/2013

Travail turned to Kickstarter to raise funds for its new home, hitting its $75,000 goal in less than one day. Among the rewards: The “2014 Sexy Chef Calendar."

The Travail team of chefs with owners, from left, Bob Gerken, Mike Brown and James Winberg.

It may be a crowd-funding record, at least locally.

As a means to close a funding gap on their new, under-construction location, the ownership team at Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale put up a plea on Kickstarter on Tuesday.

They exceeded their $75,000 goal in just hours, roughly the same amount of time it takes to consume one of the restaurant’s over-the-top tasting menus. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the total stood at $157,779, raised from 670 backers. It’s a startling feat but not entirely surprising, given Travail’s (justifiably) rabid following.

The campaign is titled “Democratizing Fine Dining in Robbinsdale, MN,” and it promises all kinds of bells and whistles for contributors: cooking classes, preview events, a your-name-here spot on a benefactor’s wall.

One of the more inspired rewards is cheekily stepping into St. Paul firefighter territory: Travail’s “2014 Sexy Chef Calendar,” which will be released just before the holidays.

Like Travail itself, the online effort turned out to be a wildly creative, wholly impressive and instantly successful.

But one quibble: One of the campaign’s primary bonuses allows contributors at certain levels ($250 and up) to jump to the head of the line at the no-reservations restaurant.

That’s a valuable asset — just ask anyone who has stood for several hours outside the restaurant, waiting for a table. But from this 99 percent-er’s vantage point, such a perk seems to run counter to the campaign’s “democratizing” promise.

Co-owners James Winberg, Bob Gerken, Kale Thome and Mike Brown are hoping for a quiet opening in December. Meanwhile the crew’s temporary Asian restaurant, Umami by Travail (904 W. Broadway, Mpls.) is getting ready to open next week.