Chef Justin Bogle, the New Man on Walnut Streetâ€Ś June, 2013
I see Prime Philadelphia as a program about Philadelphia “Spots”. Not all Spots are created equally. Chef Jose Garces has seven Spots in Downtown Philadelphia and they are all great. There are Spots to embrace, and there are spots to avoid. We plan to be about the ones to “Embrace”. Philadelphia is on a roll, and the current issue adds two more outstanding New York chefs returning to our area of the world. Enjoy! …Bob Bickell
The Restaurant Report by Bob Bickell
Le Bec-Fin (Closing) Interview – Chef Justin Bogle & Chef Christopher Lee – Chef Bernard, NYC
“Have no fear of perfection – You’ll never reach it” …Salvatore Dali I did take some heat in my May Issue regarding Le Bec-Fin and specifically, Nicolas Fanucci. I predicted a happy ending for both, and we now know the results. I did speak with Nicolas right before I wrote it and he was more optimistic than ever. I also spoke with a former LBF chef, and he suggested that they were actually making it happen.
I have been around long enough to know that one should never be shocked by any restaurant opening and or closing. It’s an ongoing process. My frustration is that I failed to listen to so many people in the industry that told me there was no way the new Le Bec-Fin could possibly make it. I wanted this restaurant to stay viable because of its history and importance to the local Philadelphia restaurant scene. It wasn’t a matter of talent in the kitchen, or the knowledge and experience of Nicolas Fanucci. It was simply a case of modern restaurant reality – the concept is basically yesterday’s news (everything from their onehundred and fifty-dollar French, prix fixe dinners to the chandeliers). It wasn’t a matter of George leaving – George had to leave.
George Perrier still owns the building, and now Chris Scarduzzio is involved. The story goes on and on. The bottom lineâ€ŚLe Bec-Fin had an amazing run of 42 years and Chef Perrier was the man that made it happen. End of story.
I still believe in Nicolas Fanucciâ€ŚHe was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wish him good luck - BB
Interview â€“ Chef Justin Bogel
The Chef is soon to occupy the former Le Bec-Fin
BB: You accepted a new challenge in Philadelphia which means you are leaving New York. One might suggest it should be the other way around. Isnâ€™t New York the restaurant capital of the world? Chef: Keep in mind that I came from Philadelphia and I am about to undertake an amazing opportunity in terms of replacing a world-wide establishment in Le Bec-Fin.
I spent seven fabulous years in New York and I know what they mean when they say “if you make it here, you can make anywhere”. I believe I made it in New York, so my new challenge is to make it my hometown. It works for me. BB: No one can argue that. Your two Michelin Awards from Gilt are all one has to know. It still has to be difficult to walk away from the Big Apple. Chef: My first reaction when I was offered the job in Philadelphia was that I didn’t want to be involved with the so-called reincarnation of Le Bec-Fin. I have so much respect for this place, and I remember celebrating my 16th birthday in this incredible restaurant. I believe the experience of that memorable meal had something to do with the direction of my career. BB: Let’s talk career, and one could argue that based on your age, your career is still in the beginning stages. Chef: The restaurant business is a people business and I had the good fortune of being around some very important people right after I finished culinary school at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. I was 19 or
20 years-old and I got a job as a sous chef at Alma de Cuba on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. It was very interesting because how many young people start their journey under two incredible chefs â€“ Chef Douglas Rodriguez and the soon to be famous Jose Garces. My really big break came later when I moved over to Striped Bass and worked with Chef Christopher Lee. He is a truly great chef and an equally great teacher. I learned so much from him while working in a classic spot like the Striped Bass, and in my final year there we received a 4Bell revue from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Chef Lee left for an executive chef position at Gilt in New York, and in 2006, he asked me to join him. Two years later I became the executive chef and fortunate enough to grab two Michelin Awards. I now find myself awaiting a return to Philadelphia. BB: While your restaurant will not officially open until early fall, Iâ€™m guessing that you know exactly what you plan to do, and that would be to a large degree precisely what you did at Gilt.
Chef: You are correct, and I am more excited than ever to get going. It will be a modern American concept, and I will continue to work with local farmers and so many of the purveyors from my days in New York. Chef Chris Scarduzio will be involved, and I am excited to be working with him. It feels good to be coming home.
Grilled Baby Octopus, Tomato Confit, Spring Garlic Celery, and Espelette Pepperâ€Ś Food by Chef Justin Bogel - Photo by Vicky Wask.
Chef Christopher Lee
There are times when a concise bio speaks for itself… (photo by Steve Lagato) 2005: Selected as James Beard “Rising Star Chef of the Year” 2006: Selected as one of Food and Wine’s “Best New Chefs” 2008: 2 Michelin Star rating for Gilt in New York City 2008: As Executive Chef re-launched Charlie Palmer’s “Aureole”
2009: Awarded Michelin Star for Aureole 2009: Selected to participate in Top Chef Masters 2009: Earned unprecedented 29 point food rating from Zagat 2010: Opened Eden South Beach (Miami, FL) 2011: Opened Huntington Social (Huntington, NY) 2012: Launched Iki Sake 2013: Opened Sophia's (Philadelphia, PA) Christopher Lee is one of the top chefs in America, and our story really begins in 2004 when the good chef was in the kitchen of Stephen Starrâ€™s Striped Bass. A young Restaurant School graduate showed-up in his kitchen and basically, he taught the kid how to cook. BB: Justin Bogle gives you tons of credit for helping him develop into the chef he is today. Chef Lee: I love what I do, and I have always tried to help young people whenever possible. Back in the Striped Bass days, Justin was a bit rough around the edges, but I immediately knew that this kid was serious about his career. His passion and commitment was second to none. He worked as hard as anyone I have ever been around. I remember telling him that he had a great
future, but I had to teach him how to cook. Justin was anxious to learn and obviously he has become a great chef. Justin became successful because he wanted to be. BB: So successful that you took him to New York when you became the executive chef at Gilt. Chef Lee: His mother hated me for that. She wanted him to stay home in Philadelphia. What he accomplished in New York when he took over as executive chef, and I’m talking about two years of Michelin stars, was absolutely amazing. It made him a star. BB: Like Justin, you became more of a New York chef and yet you recently opened Sophia’s in Philadelphia. What was on your mind with this particular move? Chef Lee: First of all I happen to love Philadelphia. I’m even planning to move there. Maybe the real reason is a bit of a change in my direction. I have worked with the likes of Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges, and Charlie Palmer. I have always been involved with fine dining, and I wanted to do something different. I want to cook great food in a more casual and affordable concept. Fine dining is so much about stars, bells, and reviews. I don’t want
to worry about those things anymore. Sophia’s is also the type of place that the public wants. BB: Your final thoughts on Justin Bogle on Walnut Street. Chef Lee: Justin learned to cook a long time ago. He is back in his hometown and he has become a great chef. He is back where he started on Walnut Street with Alma de Cuba and the former Striped Bass. It’s a beautiful thing and a great story.
Sophia’s 1623 East Passyunk Ave. – 215-238-1920 www.sophiasphilly.com
A visit to Chef Bernardâ€™s Panameâ€Ś
There are situations in this business where the owner is more important than the restaurant. Bernard Ros is the restaurant, and for the last forty-some years he has been doing what he always does â€“ running a very delightful spot somewhere on the planet. Most recently, that restaurant was called Meli Melo in New York that lasted a delightful 17 years. The equally delightful Paname just opened, and you know by definition that it will be great.
You know the food (of the French bistro variety) will be affordable and very, very good, and there will be fresh flowers on your table. You also know that Bernard will be there because he is always there. If you stay until 2AM, Bernard will still be doing something. The good chef might be working the kitchen; he might be behind the bar; and he might be sitting with you at your table. The man knows the concept of hospitality, and so many dine in his restaurant simply to see Bernard. He named his new spot “Paname.” It’s my recommendation for your next dining experience in New York.
1068 2nd Avenue – 212-207-3737 www.panamenyc.com
Prime Spots - Tauscher Chocolates of Switzerland
Classic Champagne Truffles As the signature chocolate of Teuscher, the Champagne Truffle creates an upscale gift for any event or celebration. A bit of Dom Perginon champagne creme is surrounded by rich, dark chocolate ganache coated in smooth milk chocolate and lightly finished with confectionersâ€™ sugar. The Shops at the Bellevue - 200 S. Broad Street - 215-546-7600 www.teuscherphiladelphia.com
Prime Spots â€“ CapoGiro Gelato and Sorbetto
One of the classic spots in all of Philadelphia. 13th Street comes alive with fabulous restaurant concepts, and so many of the people who dine in this area come to CapoGiro for dessert. This spot is open until 1AM on Friday & Saturday, and 11:30 on every other day. My favorite â€“ TheChampagne Mango. www.capogirogelato.com
Prime Spots-HIPCityVeg www.HipCityVeg.com
There is a substantial audience that seeks healthy food. These are the folks that stand in line on a daily basis at the wildly successful HipCityVeg at 127 South 18th Street. They are successful simply because the know how to make healthy food actually delicious, and thatâ€™s not always easy to do.
Presents The Art of Jerry Pinkney June 28th thru September 22ndâ€Ś
Mr. Pinkney is a native of Philadelphia who studied at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). He has been illustrating children’s books since 1964 and is a five-time winner of the New York Times “Award for Best Illustrated Books”.
Ben - Alive & Well in Philadelphia!
PRIME TRAVEL North Carolina's Crystal Coast…
Here’s the good news – you don’t have to fly. It’s only a short (but interesting) drive from Downtown Philadelphia (a mere 503 miles). And North Carolina's Crystal Coast has something special for every member of the family. One can stroll the streets of Beaufort (America’s Coolest Small Town by Budget Travel) and savor “fresh from the docks” seafood sensations. This authentic "coastal experience" features waters of crystalline purity bordering sandy, sparkling beaches and allows visitors to let their imagination run free.
Dangling like a delicate strand of pearls off the coast of North Carolina, the favored Atlantic beach destination of generations represents one of the only remaining natural barrier island systems in the World. The Islands are strung together with 85 miles of silken coastline along the Southern Outer Banks, 56 miles of which are in the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore.
From luxury to economy, travelers to the Crystal Coast who wish to live like millionaires on an “average Joe’s” budget have the opportunity to rent and relax in one of many opulent homes dotting the coastline. These deluxe digs range from quaint beach cottages to mammoth beach mansions known locally as “sand castles,” with grand names like Seas the Day and Camelot by the Sea, combining coastal Carolina charm interiors with the comforts of home for an authentic "coastal experience."
Take time to relax and simply enjoy the view. There is everything you want (including a bevy of fabulous bars and restaurants).
North Carolinaâ€™s Crystal Coastâ€Ś Visit www.crystalcoastnc.org.
Miss Doreen Taylor
We met this talented young lady at the World CafĂŠ Live. It was an exhilarating performance and perhaps a look into the future of a major-league star. This South Jersey resident has it all, and while very few actually get a taste of the big-time, Doreen and her music (from country to rock) is well on her way. www.doreentaylormusic.com
77 & Still Rockinâ€™â€Ś
Mr. Charlie Gracie by Bob Bickell You gotta love this guy. He grew up in South Philly and he never forgot where he came from. His real success came as a great father and husband, and he even had a street in Wildwood named after him.
A Quote from the man… “I never thought of me as anything. I just sing and I play the guitar. I think I do it fairly well because I never could have survived all these years in the business. I never claimed to be the best or the greatest at anything. I just go out there and do what I do and the people seem to like it.” I spoke to Charlie and it was like talking to a friend. He told me how it all started… “My father worked at the Stetson Hat Company and I can remember the day he took me to South Street to buy a suit. I was ten-years old, and he surprised me by not buying the suit, but buying a musical instrument. He told me that I had to learn music or I would be doomed to end-up working in a factory.” “I wanted a trumpet, but he insisted on a guitar. He told me that if I played the guitar, I didn’t need anyone else. It would just be me and the guitar.” Charlie hit the big-time in the early 1950’s with a song called Butterfly and he became the first rock & roll star to come out of Philadelphia.
Over the years he became more popular in London than he was in the United States. Of course, it helped that Paul McCartney and the Beatles loved his music, and every year he still returns. “It’s not an easy business, and many years ago I came to the realization that while I could make a living as a musician even though I would be playing the clubs instead of Madison Square Garden. I wish I had a few million in the bank, but that wasn’t meant to be. I pay my bills and I’m still married to the same woman that I married some fifty-five years ago. It’s never been about the money – I would play my music for free, and I have done that. I still need to make a living, and I still love what I do.” “It was a thrill for me to have a bronze plaque on the Wall of Fame on Broad Street, and I’m smart enough to know that I will have my name on my own tombstone. Not bad for a street kid from South Philly. I wasn’t a Frank Sinatra, but I did do it my way!” www.charliegracie.com
“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living”…
It’s one of my favorite books ever. The moment he decided to become a chef (page 24 in his book) is a notable restaurant classic of all time. I even had the opportunity of interviewing him for Restaurant Report. Next:
I asked him about the value of attending culinary school in terms of getting hired in a restaurant. He told me that he would take a dishwasher before a culinary school graduate. This answer became very interesting because soon after the interview, he was hired as a spokesman for the Culinary Institute of America. The good chef was a guest at the National Restaurant Association, 2013 Restaurant Show in Chicago, and he made a comment that is worth repeating… “I get to go anywhere in the world with my friends and tell a story about it. I get to get drunk, I get to curse and I get paid for it.” In my opinion, he is great for the restaurant business. Say what you will about Anthony Bourdain, the man is always interesting!
From the Ocean City Boardwalkâ€Ś
Itâ€™s going to be a fantastic summer at the Jersey Shore. We know this because Governor Christie said so. The lady on his arm happens to be my sister. She agrees with him. Let the games begin.
The following is part of our ongoing commitment to help further your education (courtesy of the web) ARBITRATOR: Cook that leaves Arby's to work at McDonalds. AVOIDABLE: What a bullfighter tries to do. BERNADETTE: The act of torching a mortgage. COUNTERFEITERS: Workers who put together kitchen cabinets. EYEDROPPER: A clumsy ophthalmologist. HEROES: What a guy in a boat does. LEFTBANK: What the robber did when his bag was full of money. PHARMACIST: A helper on the farm POLARIZE: What penguins see with. RELIEF: What trees do in the spring. RUBBERNECK: What you do to relax your wife. SELFISH: What the owner of a seafood store does. SUDAFED: Brought litigation against a government official