The lamb burger from chef Justin Bogle. Photo by Neal Santos. Middle, left: Justin Bogle, cauliflower dish, photos by Steve Legato.
Ever since Michelin-starred chef Justin Bogle debuted Avance in early Dec. 2013, in the iconic former home of Le Bec Fin, he’s become the object of diners’ obsessions. Maybe its his thought-provoking chef’s tasting, his impeccable lamb burger, or his overall, artful approach to modern-day fine dining, but whatever your fascination, we’re proclaiming him one step ahead of the area’s culinary curve.
Recently, the Main Course chit-chatted with the buzz-worthy chef, picking the native’s brain on returning to cook in Philadelphia, his goals for Avance and its menus, and so much more.
Main Course: Why was it important for you to return to Philadelphia, to your culinary roots, and reinvest yourself in the scene that helped mold you?
Justin Bogle: The restaurant scene in Philly has always been amazing but I feel like it is getting better and better almost every day at this point. Once presented with the opportunity to come home and open a restaurant at this location, it was a no-brainer.
You haven’t taken over just any space of Philadelphia. But, that being said, you’re not trying to be Le Bec-Fin 3.0. What are your goals with Avance?
The goal is to hopefully have a legacy as great as Le Bec-Fin. We are doing something completely different, but if we make an impact like that then I will be happy.
What void does Avance fill in Philadelphia’s food scene? What are you doing differently within your progressive Walnut Street kitchen?
I am not quite sure we are filling a void but more just adding something new and unique to an already booming culinary landscape. I think what we are doing differently is that we are trying to make sure every component of the experience has been included in the thought process. From the sourcing and cooking of the ingredients to the way we run the service side of the restaurant down to working with artisans to craft us unique services pieces for us. We try to make sure nothing gets overlooked.
Your cooking style has a firm modernist bent to it, with you using your molecular “bag of tricks” on a nightly basis. I’ve also noticed some Asian influences in the mix. Can you define your cooking style?
The cuisine of Avance is progressive American in its approach. ‘American’ in the fact that this country is a melting pot of many cultures, so we want to be able to tap into those cuisines for inspiration. ‘Progressive’ in its approach by constantly pushing ourselves to source better ingredients and figure out the best cooking technique for them. We use modern techniques when necessary but we don’t want them to overshadow the ingredients.
I love your range of options at Avance—from the bar menu downstairs to the elaborate tastings upstairs. What influenced you to cater to both the casual and fine diner within the Avance space?
We just wanted to make sure that there was an experience for everyone. Whether you come in on Tuesday and have the burger and a beer in the bar, or Saturday night you are doing the chef’s tasting in the dining room. We wanted people to be able to choose their own experience.
You’re only 33 years old with a resume that any chef would kill to have under his belt. To further sing your praises, you were the youngest chef (at 28) to receive Michelin stars. What’s next?
The focus is to make Avance one of the best restaurants in the city and push to be one of the best in the country.
Wild card: now that you’re back in your home turf, where are you (on your rare off-days) grabbing a bite to eat?
I have my standard go-to spots but since I was in New York for so long I have a lot of catching up to do. I try to keep it fresh and try something new on my days off.