Category Archives: Chef News

An Afternoon with Ferran Adria


Philadelphia has its share of celebrity chefs, from Jose Garces and Marc Vetri to Jen Carroll and Morimoto. They all deserve a ton of respect and they were all on my list of “chefs I would like to meet” when I came here. But I often wonder is who it is that they consider to be a “celebrity chef”? Who would have Jose Garces saying “wow! I can’t believe I just met _____”.

Well, there is one Chef that I’m sure is on every chef in Philadelphia’s list – and his name is Ferran Adria and if his name or his now closed, Spanish restaurant elBulli doesn’t ring any bells, we are talking about one of the most important figures in the culinary world today!

Recently, your reporter from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy (that’s me) had the pleasure to spend an afternoon following celebrity chef Ferran Adria during his time here at the university.

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Laiskonis Goes Lithuanian at COOK



Lithuanian cuisine remains one of the more undiscovered European cooking traditions, despite the Baltic nation’s strong agrarian history, burgeoning beer reputation and hunting and fishing culture. Luckily, a handful of influential Americans with Lithuanian ties are working to boost awareness in this country. Last week, COOK hosted Michael Laiskonis, former executive pastry chef of Le Bernardin and current creative director of NYC’s Institute of Culinary Education, for an evening of reinterpreted Lithuanian food.

Brought to town by Krista Bard, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania, Laiskonis hosted a two-night dinner series in Philly to commemorate Lithuania taking over the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Laiskonis, a Michigan native, has spent the past few years researching and rediscovering his Lithuanian lineage, connecting with family in the country and taking multiple trips there to experience the food first-hand. His five-course menu, which saw him stepping away from his usual pastry-only wheelhouse to tackle savory cooking, as well, showcased traditional Lithuanian flavors in a clever but approachable manner.

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COOK Restaurant Sneak Peek: coZara


Last week, COOK was thrilled to host a sneak peek of Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka’s soon-to-open University City restaurant, coZara (meaning “small plates” in Japanese).

Zama has come far in his three-plus years on 19th Street on Rittenhouse Square, and his Zama is one of the city’s go-to spots for sushi. Now,  Zama is on the move with a second restaurant. This December, he is set to open a 140-seat, two-story Japanese restaurant whose menu will include yakitori, noodles and dumplings.

The lucky 16 guests at Zama’s class last week got a special, early taste of the menu which was not only beautiful but delicious as well. Below are the menu as well as photos by Yoni Nimrod for COOK.

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July classes that rock!


COOK’s July class schedule features one of the most interesting line-up of classes that we have ever offered. Here are a few of the diverse demos we have going on next month that are not-to-be-missed:

Wed 7/3, 7pm: Regional Southern BBQ Styles with Justin Swain of REX 1516

There is a reason everyone in the south eats BBQ: because it’s delicious. But it’s by no means the same from state to state. Each Southern locale has its own particular variety of barbecue, particularly concerning the sauce. North Carolina sauces vary by region; eastern North Carolina uses a vinegar-based sauce, the center of the state enjoys something called “Lexington-style” barbecue, which uses a combination of ketchup and vinegar as their base, and western North Carolina uses a heavier ketchup base. South Carolina is the only state that includes all four recognized barbecue sauces, including mustard-based, vinegar-based, and light and heavy tomato-based. Memphis barbecue is best known for tomato- and vinegar-based sauces. And that’s just the tip of the barbecue iceberg!

Next month, Chef Justin Swain of South Street’s southern food mecca, Rex 1516, will take guests on a journey through the various regions and styles of southern BBQ. Any and every BBQ enthusiast in Philly needs to be at this finger-lickin’ good class!


Sat 7/13, 7pm: Modern Hawaiian Fare with Kiki Aranita and Chris Vacca of Poi Dog Snack Shop 

If you know Philly’s booming street food scene, then you, no doubt, know about Poi Dog. The Vendy Award-nominated food truck is the brainchild of former Classics instructors, Kiki Aranita and Chris Vacca, who have brought Hawaiian cuisine to the streets of Philadelphia with gusto. And this is not your average food cart! The pair offers some of the most delicious and underrated fare around and it’s one of the most exciting recent additions to Philly’s food scene in general.

Poi Dog offers a menu of classic island fare with a contemporary spin. At COOK, they will be demo’ing: ahi poke, Saimin with pork belly adobo, Kalua pork plate with lomi lomi salmon and banana lumpia with chocolate haupia dipping sauce. You may not know what half of those things are now but if you come to this class you will be very glad you did!


Wed 7/17, 7pm: A Global Hot Dog Adventure with Keith Garabedian of Hot Diggity 

Philadelphia Inquirer restaurant critic, Craig LaBan, called the hot dogs at Hot Diggity “superior” while Food Network personality (and former host of “Double Dare”) Marc Summers proclaimed the Hot Diggity wieners “the best hot dogs” he has ever had! And they should know.  Hot Diggity has made it their mission to bring hot dogs back to the City of Brotherly Love. The city and hot dogs have a rich history together, but the rise of other local favorites has pushed the humble hot dog to the back burner. No more, says Chef-Owner Keith Garabedian!

If you think of Oscar Meyer when you hear the words “hot dog”, think again. At COOK, Keith will give guests a taste of hot dogs and hot dog styles from around the globe. This is a hot dog lover’s dream and the perfect place to learn how to spice up your own hot dog game this summer.

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Open Stove XIV: Winner’s Circle


COOK’s Open Stove prides itself on being a stage for Philly’s as-yet-untested kitchen talent, but once in awhile the crew likes to throw some proven winners into the mix to see what the heck’s going to happen. They’ve achieved this in the past by pitting executive chefs against each other in an unpredictable battle usually reserved for sous chefs and line cooks. For the 14th installment in the series, however, COOK tapped two reigning Open Stove champions — Zahav‘s Yehuda Sichel (above, left) and Sola BYOB‘s Steve Stryjewski — to see who’d get the better of their fellow victor.

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Roof To Table: An Edible Oasis Atop The Four Seasons Hotel


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to revisit the rooftop garden of the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. I went about 3 years ago when the “edible landscape” was first installed by my old friend Grace Wicks of Graceful Gardens.

Over the past 3 years, Executive Chef Rafael Gonzalez (who took me up there yesterday) has worked with a new gardening pro to double the garden’s size and capacity. And while we are still weeks out from really seeing major growth up there, there were plenty of signs of a fruitful season to come.

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New Chefs Coming to COOK This June


Next month at COOK, there are a number of first timers coming to lead their own classes. Below are a couple of the newbies not to be missed in June (seats can be purchased online by clicking on the class titles):

Sun 6/9, 6pm: A Good For You Drive Thru with Ryan Sulikowski of Farmers Road Drive Thru
Chef Ryan Sulikowski began his culinary career as a high school freshman in a neighbor’s Mediterranean-style restaurant. From there he attended Drexel University with a major in Biology and then went to pursue a formal culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu at the Atlantic Culinary Academy in Dover, New Hampshire.

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Open Stove XI: A Bacos Bonanza!

Didja miss us?!

Open Stove, COOK’s recurring culinary battle, took a brief break in frigid February, but it was back and stranger than ever in the month of March. The 11th installment of the series brought in two new game victims competitors ready to take on absolutely anything: Carmen Cappello (left), COOK vet and sous chef/charcuterie expert aboard The Moshulu; and Jamie Wolf, who kills it in the kitchen of the nearby Alma de Cuba. Would Cappello capitalize on his familiarity with the battlefield and come out with his glove raised? Or would Wolf continue in the tradition of first-ever female victor Hilary Hamilton and earn the W? Read on to find out!

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Open Stove X: Hip to Be Square

COOK’s primo Center City location puts it in super-close proximity to some of Philly’s best restaurants. Two of those near neighbors — Lacroix and Rittenhouse Tavern — provided the whisk-wielding warriors for the 10th installment of the always-a-blast Open Stove battle. In addition to being the first COOK-off of 2013, OSX (catchy!) also marked the first-ever participation of a female competitor. Hilary Hamilton (second from right), sous for Tavern chef/COOK regular Nick Elmi, toted her knife roll across the park to Rittenhouse Square-off against Doug Allen, one of the many talents to be found in chef Jon Cichon‘s next-level Lacroix kitchen.

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Open Stove IX: Battle of the “Bars”

I’ve had an inappropriate amount of fun covering COOK’s Open Stove series for The COOKbook in 2012. From clashes European and North American to battles between bartender bros and actual brothers, the monthly competition ranged wildly in theme and personnel, but a sense of jovialty and culinary fellowship (often in the form of dude-hugs) pervaded each installment. OS9 was no exception, bringing together two chefs from two very different kinds of bars for a competition characterized as much by goofs as good food.

Kevin Yanaga (left) mans the sushi bar at Rittenhouse’s Zama, and is well-known at COOK for his fishy stylings and expertise in knife sharpening. Mark Regan (right), too, has appeared at COOK frequently, but this Open Stove was the first opportunity for the chef de cuisine of Newbold beer bar South Philly Tap Room to lead the charge.

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