Michael Klein: Chef's chef to debut as chef-owner with Will

The minimalist, 30-seat BYOB has a culinary style described as French with modern techniques. Entree prices are in the $20s.
The minimalist, 30-seat BYOB has a culinary style described as French with modern techniques. Entree prices are in the $20s.
Posted: August 23, 2012

Christopher Kearse is a chef's chef - a well-traveled Levittown native and 2005 Restaurant School grad who worked at top rooms such as Charlie Trotter's, Tru, Alinea, and French Laundry, and then as a sous chef at Lacroix and Blackfish, followed by 2½ years as chef de cuisine at Pumpkin.

Hard worker, meticulous, cool under fire, creative - but not widely known outside the restaurant world. Ask young chefs Jason Cichonski, Chip Roman, Jessie Prawlucki, Lee Styer, and Matt Levin who would be in their top-five around town, and all will drop his name.

On Friday, Kearse is to debut as a chef-owner with the opening of Will, at 1911 E. Passyunk Ave. in South Philadelphia (215-271-7683), next to Tre Scalini.

Kearse, 28, describes the culinary style at the minimalist, 30-seat BYOB as French with modern techniques. Entree prices are in the $20s.

Fellow Pumpkin alum Chris Perotti is general manager. They will serve dinner Tuesdays through Sundays and brunch on Sundays. Every Sunday, Kearse will offer a four-course seasonal prix-fixe menu, and on Tuesdays he'll showcase one ingredient.

That Kearse is cooking at all is testament to his will. (The restaurant's name actually is his middle name.) He made an amazing recovery from a 2000 auto accident, when he was a 16-year-old passenger in a friend's car that was hit by a drunken driver. He suffered massive damage to his face, requiring a jaw reconstruction.

New chef at Fork

Fork (306 Market St.) has imported Eli Kulp - chef de cuisine at the ambitious Torrisi Italian Specialties, an American-theme destination in Manhattan's Nolita neighborhood - as its executive chef, starting in mid-September. His menu will begin in October. Kulp, a Culinary Institute of America grad who previously banged pots at Casa Lever, La Fonda del Sol, and Del Posto, replaces Terence Feury, who is going the chef-owner route as a partner in the soon-to-open Tavro 13 at 306 Kings Highway in Swedesboro; there's a job fair Sept. 4.

What's new

Rittenhouse Square real estate agent Anne Frey is behind the new 1 Tippling Pl (2006 Chestnut St.), a cleverly named cocktail bar with a certain Mad Men appeal. It looks like a mid-20th-century parlor - antique paintings, table lamps, comfy seating. Frey said focus is on fairly priced craft cocktails backed by a simple, retro menu (artichoke dip, figs wrapped in prosciutto, hot beef spread, dates and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon); general manager David Tang previously managed the Ranstead Room, behind El Rey across the street. Expect a mellow, grown-up vibe earlier in the evening, and something edgier later.

What's coming

They should install a revolving door on the restaurant next to the Regal movie theater in Edgmont Square Shopping Center (4755 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square), once home of Roux 3, Parker's Prime, and now Sang Kee Noodle Bowl. Win and Sutida Somboonsong, who owned the last two restaurants in the space, are ending their licensing deal with Sang Kee's Michael Chow after a year. On Aug. 29, they will close Sang Kee to retool the kitchen. On Sept. 5, the plan goes, it will open as Azie Southeast, a version of their two Azies, in Media and Villanova. This location will serve the cuisines of Southeast Asia. Unlike the other Azie locations, there will be no sushi or sashimi so they won't compete with their nearby Teikoku.

The spot on the 18th Street side of 1801 Market St., last occupied by Pikkles Plus, is getting Devon & Blakely, an upmarket sandwich/salad spot now in Washington, D.C., and New York City. It's due to open by the end of the year.

Photos, menus, and additional details about these restaurants, plus dining news, can be found at www.philly.com/mike. Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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