A networking event called Young Friendsgiving showcased three new restaurants around the city on Monday night.
The owners of Mexican restaurant, South Philly Barbacoa, Jewish bakery, Essen Bakery and Malaysian restaurant, Saté Kampar, were invited by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia to give presentations and provide samples to young Philadelphia professionals. All three restaurants reflect a variety of trends in Philadelphia's food scene.
“Really good food is becoming more accessible. Before, you had to go to a super fancy French restaurant or fancy Italian restaurant and get dressed up,” College and Wharton senior and editor for Penn Appetit, Chase Matecun, said. “Over the past decade, we’ve seen a huge transition from that, to what’s now a much more casual side of fine dining.”
After meeting each other at Amis, an Italian restaurant, Ben Miller and Christina Martinez, the founders of South Philly Barbacoa, began their business selling barbacoa — a specific kind of barbecued meat — from their apartment. They later rented out a food truck and eventually settled in South Philadelphia.
South Philly Barbacoa's menu reflects a trend towards more authentic dishes, as Philadelphia becomes more diverse. Even well-known types of cuisine are becoming more diverse and specified.
Authenticity is a major theme for another one of the restaurants featured in the event: Saté Kampar. The Malaysian restaurant is representative of a growing group of restaurants serving Southeast Asian cuisine.
“I find it absolutely amazing that in a city like Philadelphia, within walking distance, you can find really authentic Indonesian restaurants, Cambodian restaurants, Malaysian restaurants, Thai restaurants, Chinese restaurants. In fact, Chinese food is not just one category of food,” owner of Saté Kampar, Ange Branca, said. “You’ve got to be more specific. Is it Szechuan? Is it Hunan? Is it Shanghainese?”
The last restaurant featured was Essen Bakery. After working as a pastry chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel, Tova du Plessis, with only $25,000, opened Essen in East Passyunk. The bakery, which features recipes from du Plessis’ childhood in South Africa, has proven successful. During the event, du Plessis said that she is looking forward to expanding into a larger location.
The cost of opening a restaurant was a major topic during the event, with Miller, du Plessis and Branca all saying that the cost was considerably lower in Philadelphia than in other cities known for their food scenes.
“We’re a major city on the east coast, but it’s kind of affordable to live here, and it’s kind of affordable to even open a restaurant here," du Plessis said. “In Philly, you can really have a decent standard of life on a cook’s wage.”
The event ended in good spirits, with the owners expressing high hopes for their eateries. Even Branca, who, after being in the corporate world, opened her restaurant eight months ago, says that she is excited for the future of Saté Kampar.
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