Remembering Chef Patrick Feury’s Impact on the Main Line Region

Illustration by Jon Krause. Photos courtesy of Tina Feury.

A writer, foodie and friend remembers Nectar’s Patrick Feury and his early role in the Main Line’s culinary renaissance.

I first ran into Patrick Feury sometime in 2015 on a packed night at the Berwyn Tavern, just down the road from the upscale Asian fusion restaurant where he’d been executive chef and part-owner for 11 years. He was 50 at the time and not much taller than me (I’m 5-foot-6), his white hair tucked beneath a baseball cap. Soft-spoken and mildly flirtatious, he bought me a Tito’s with club and lime. Our initial conversation sparked a friendship that lasted for the next seven years—until he was found unresponsive at the bottom of a stairwell in his Paoli home in the early-morning hours of Feb. 12, 2022.

Three months before his death, I met Patrick at Autograph Brasserie in Wayne to discuss a cookbook collaboration. Cheese was one of his passions, and Vermont was among his favorite places. “We need a photographer to follow us up there to shoot pictures of you with your vendors,” I told him as he grew more animated.

Patrick wanted the book to be mostly about the people and places that inspired his dishes—a coffee-table stunner with gorgeous photos and compelling foodie narratives. We sat at the bar for four hours discussing his relationships with the farms and the people who were so much a part of his philosophy at Nectar, the award-winning restaurant that helped transform the culinary landscape on the Main Line. As my copious notes grew more and more illegible with each cocktail, Patrick’s story began to take shape.

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He was born in Middletown Township, near the northernmost beaches of New Jersey. He was the third of four siblings—a boy and a girl, followed by two boys. Older sister Laura raised animals with the 4H Club, and he and younger brother Terrence were drawn to them at a young age. As a teen, Patrick worked as a dishwasher at a local butcher shop that also did from-scratch cooking. The process—and the results—fascinated him.

When college rolled around, Patrick briefly attended Parsons School of Design in Manhattan before transferring to the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, New Jersey. He soon convinced Terrence, who was enrolled at the local community college, to join him there. Despite their good-natured sibling rivalry, the Feury brothers would continue to share various culinary adventures through the years.

Feury

For a writing assignment at ACA, Patrick wrote an essay on New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria hotel and its acclaimed restaurant, Peacock Alley. He interviewed its executive chef, John Doherty, who offered him an internship as a senior that turned into a job upon graduation. For the next decade, he was a saucier, sautéing and preparing the sauces that accompanied Peacock Alley’s decadent meals and hors d’oeuvres. He also took up ice sculpting, which became a lifelong talent. Robert Simpson, Nectar’s manager and head server, recalls Patrick making a clam shell sculpture with a ring inside for a newly engaged couple. Todd Hardie rolled up to Nectar one day to find his friend behind the restaurant with a chainsaw, putting the finishing touches on a honeybee bearing the name of Hardie’s Vermont distillery, Barr Hill.

Following his time at Peacock Alley, Patrick had a brief stint in Paris at Les Olivades before returning to New York City. He scored a coveted position at the legendary Le Cirque, where he honed his passion for French cooking. Under chef Sottha Khunn, he rose to sous-chef while cultivating a second love for Asian cooking.

Terrence followed his brother to NYC, eventually landing at the Michelin-starred Le Bernardin under acclaimed chef Eric Ripert. In 2000, he became executive chef at Philadelphia’s Striped Bass. This time, it was the younger brother who convinced his older sibling to follow him to a new city.

Patrick Feury enjoys some downtime at Nectar.
Patrick Feury enjoys some downtime at Nectar.

In 2017, the Feury brothers faced off on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay. In the “Bro-Down Showdown,” Terrence edged out Patrick but ultimately fell to Flay in the second round.

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Late that year, Neil Stein picked the older Feury brother to helm a new venture called Avenue B. Despite promising reviews, the Broad Street restaurant struggled when the Kimmel Center’s opening was delayed. Its closure marked the beginning of Stein’s bankruptcy struggles.

Avenue B did provide the setting for an important chapter in Patrick’s personal life. In 2001, he hired Tina Casalia, an aspiring chef who’d attended Villanova University and the Connecticut Culinary Institute. She was working at Philly’s Ritz-Carlton when she got the call from Stein’s office, though she doesn’t recall sending a resume. Patrick offered Tina a job as an assistant pastry chef. When she turned it down, he found her another position that had them working side by side.

Shortly after, Patrick left his wife of less than 24 months. Later that year, he proposed to Tina. They were married in June 2002. Tina became pregnant, and Nicole was born in May 2003. The couple bought their first home in Galloway Township, New Jersey, after Patrick was hired by Susanna Foo for her new spot at the Borgata in Atlantic City.

Suilan opened in 2003 to solid reviews, but it wasn’t enough to keep the chef in Atlantic City. He was wooed away less than a year later by Michael Wei, Scott Morrison and Marty Grims and their vision for the Main Line’s answer to Stephen Starr’s much-hyped Buddakan in Old City. Nectar’s prime piece of Berwyn real estate along Route 30 had once been a Pizza Hut and more recently a barbecue joint called Billy Jake’s. The structure’s two-story transformation was extraordinary, complete with gold statues, expensive silk drapes and Asian-inspired art.

Ice sculpting became a lifelong talent. Robert Simpson, Nectar’s manager and head server, recalls Patrick making a clam shell sculpture with a ring inside for a newly engaged couple.

Patrick and Tina settled into a home just down the street from the restaurant and began raising their kids—Nicole, a 2021 Conestoga High School graduate, and Thomas, who finished at Conestoga this past June. At Nectar, Patrick and his partners curated a menu exceptional enough to convince any Main Line foodie to skip the trip to Center City. Their philosophy: “Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.”

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Feury with one of the many ice sculptures he carved over the years.
Feury with one of the many ice sculptures he carved over the years.

I learned of Patrick’s pending divorce in 2018. I knew he’d been struggling in his marriage, and I assumed he and girlfriend Jessica Cornacchio were happy. The night we discussed the cookbook, I heard a different story. He was frustrated that she didn’t have a career of her own and relied on him to support her and her two young daughters. Berwyn Tavern co-owner Joe Rexroat witnessed the couple’s fights at the bar. “I gotta get out of this situation,” Rexroat recalls Patrick saying.

That night at Autograph, Patrick told me he wanted to end it. As if on cue, Jessica called his cell phone—over and over. He didn’t take her calls. A short time later, Patrick insisted on paying the bill. His card was declined. Jessica must have frozen the account, he explained.

Despite his success, Patrick was often short on funds. On more than one occasion, he relied on his ex-wife to help with rent and other necessities. Tina suspected Patrick had a girlfriend. When he’d disappear for hours or days at a time, she grew increasingly angry. After all, she was the one who gave up a culinary career to raise the kids. She left Patrick in 2018, moving to a townhouse in Devon. It was an expensive and painful time.

We all have faults, but Patrick was often able to neutralize the negatives with his quietly magnetic personality. Following his death, I had dinner with Tina. We were joined by Patrick’s good friend, attorney Allan Aigeldinger, and his wife, Kim. They offered stories that shed some light on Patrick’s passion, creativity and compassion. Kim stressed his uncanny ability to deliver kindness through food. When her mother passed away in 2017, Patrick made Kim his favorite tuna tartare. Tina recalled the day when Patrick discovered a recently deceased deer on the edge of their property. He promptly filleted it and invited friends to partake. “It was delicious,” she recalled.

More than a dozen years ago, Allan took his daughter to Nectar for a birthday meal. He met Patrick, and the two became fast friends. Their families vacationed together regularly over the years. During their travels, Patrick would inevitably find his way into the kitchen of most restaurants. “Everything he was involved in was something interesting,” Allan said.

In May 2015, as part of the MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival, Patrick organized a Le Cirque alumni dinner at Nectar, bringing together many of the acclaimed chefs who worked at the restaurant in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Along with tales of their glory days in a premier kitchen, they shared their favorite dishes—deviled quail eggs with caviar and truffles, a seared New York strip with octopus carpaccio, diver scallops with pickled, pureed ramps, and an inventive tiramisu for dessert. According to Patrick, food didn’t need to be complicated to be delicious. The key to success in a commercial kitchen was consistency.

Prior to the Le Cirque reunion dinner, Feury brothers Patrick and Terrence teamed up with Bill Covaleski, founder of Victory Brewing Company, for Fists of Feury, a beer inspired by Patrick’s French training that infused a hoppy pale ale with rosemary. “[Patrick had] a child-like curiosity about things,” Bill says.

In celebration of the beer’s limited-edition release, Philly Beer Week set the stage for a four-course rivalry dinner, with Patrick and Terrence each contributing two dishes. Years later, in 2017, the brothers faced off on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay. In the “Bro-Down Showdown,” Terrence edged out Patrick but ultimately fell to Flay in the second round.

Now executive chef at the iconic Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, Terrence would chat with his brother weekly, if not more. In 2008, they teamed up in Villanova for their only restaurant venture, the Scandinavian-flavored Maia. Though it lasted just a few years, the two always set aside time for a yearly fishing trip and an annual summer dinner with their now-deceased father, Eugene, and childhood friend Mark Reimbold. The location was always the same: the acclaimed Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn.

Nectar’s prime piece of Berwyn real estate along rout 30 had once been a pizza hut and more recently a barbeque joint called Billy Jake’s. The structure’s two-story transformation was extraordinary, complete with gold statues, expensive silk drapes and Asian-inspire art.

After his brother’s passing, Terrence established an ACA scholarship in Patrick’s name to help aspiring culinarians. “Everything was about relationships,” he says of his brother. “That was fun for him—the bonds he made. And he had so many friends.”

While Nectar was always his baby, Patrick was involved in other restaurant projects. Inspired by his visits to Taiwan and Hong Kong, he came up with the idea of a gastropub that paid homage to Asian street food. In late 2017, he opened Danlu (Nectar in Taiwanese) at 36th and Market streets in University City. The restaurant’s interior was posh, but its food was remarkably simple. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig LaBan raved.

Nectar’s loyal following kept it afloat with takeout orders during the worst of the pandemic. Later, the parking lot was transformed into an alfresco patio. Through it all, Nectar’s Asian-inspired, French-infused cuisine remained largely unchanged. It made sense. Why mess with success?

Six months later, Danlu closed for renovations and to tweak its concept. In August 2018, it reopened as the Common with a more casual, Mediterranean vibe. The menu was seasonal and locally sourced, and the burger was a standout. But it couldn’t get past a COVID closure in 2020.

Back on the Main Line, Nectar’s loyal following kept it afloat with takeout orders during the worst of the pandemic. Later, the parking lot was transformed into an alfresco patio. Through it all, Nectar’s Asian-inspired, French-infused cuisine remained largely unchanged. It made sense. Why mess with success?

The Feury family—Patrick, Tina, Nicole and Thomas—in 2013.
The Feury family—Patrick, Tina, Nicole and Thomas—in 2013.

When he died, Patrick was sharing a cramped rental near the Paoli train station with his girlfriend and her daughters. I learned about his death on Facebook when Nectar’s Robert Simpson posted the shocking news. I immediately texted him for details. Saddened and stunned, he knew nothing. In the 10 days before the memorial service at St. Norbert in Paoli, rumors swirled. Had he fallen? Had he been pushed? There was no way of knowing.

The night he died, Patrick had been in and out of the Berwyn Tavern a few times. He’d also been up the road at TJ’s Restaurant and Drinkery, just around the corner from his rental in Paoli. The Berwyn Tavern’s Joe Rexroat says Patrick didn’t appear intoxicated when he settled his account shortly before closing time at 2 a.m.

Less than two and a half hours later, Patrick was declared dead. Reports were that Jessica had been asleep upstairs and didn’t hear him fall. When she awoke to find him unresponsive, she called the police and Tina. When she arrived, Tina noticed a cat and a vacuum cleaner on the narrow wooden stairs.

According to public record, Jessica was arrested in April 2022 and charged with identity theft in connection with a $2,500 withdrawal from Patrick’s bank account just after his death. Tina had logged in to pay the final expenses for Patrick’s funeral when she discovered what had happened and reported it to police. Jessica was released on bail and ordered to pay back what she’d taken, plus court costs and fees. She wouldn’t respond to my requests for comment.

The chef was an animal lover from an early age.
Feury was an animal lover from an early age.

With every table booked for the evening, the staff at Nectar waited eagerly for their head chef to appear on the afternoon of Feb. 12. Valentine’s weekend was typically one of the busiest of the year. The evening before, Patrick had been brainstorming the menu. He worked hard in the kitchen, but he could be consumed by his personal life, and it wouldn’t have been the first time he missed work.

Just after 4 p.m., Allan’s daughter Nicole, who worked as a hostess at Nectar, called to deliver the tragic news—to everyone’s shock and disbelief. “Patrick made everyone feel special,” says friend Michael Boden, who recalls the nights when a unique dish would appear at his table, courtesy of the chef. “That was the magic of Patrick.”

On my last visit to Nectar while Patrick was alive, he gave me a tour of the small garden just outside his immaculately clean kitchen. Herbs, mint, tomatoes, chilis and squash grew, waiting to be incorporated into his eclectic dishes. I could see the pride on his face as he told me about his plans to expand it—plans that never came to fruition. Surely whatever dish he might have created with those fresh ingredients would’ve been innovative and delicious, yet humble and simple. He cooked as he lived.

Anne E. Hill is a longtime resident of the Main Line—most recently Berwyn, where she’s lived for more than a decade. Author of over 24 children’s and young-adult biographies and works of fiction, she loves dining out on the Main Line, at the Jersey Shore and beyond.

Related: The Main Line Mourns Nectar Chef Patrick Feury

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