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Main Line Masters

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PICK A CHEF

Brian Storey of Gladwyne’s Green Bean Coffee (page 2)
Tina Krinsky of the Julian Krinsky School of Cooking (page 3)
Jason Curtis of Gilmore’s in West Chester (page 4)
John DiPrimio of Narberth Café (page 5)
Marina Kamilatos of Lourdas Greek Taverna in Bryn Mawr (page 6)
Vince Viola of Yangming in Bryn Mawr (pages 7-8)
 

 

The Green Entrepreneur

Brian Storey looks like an old pro running his small neighborhood coffee shop and eatery. The co-owner of Gladwyne’s Green Bean Coffee is confident and friendly, chatting with customers as he leans over a salad he’s making with exacting care.
 

Chef Brian Storey. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)

From his youngish looks, you wouldn’t necessarily think that Storey is old enough to be an experienced chef. The 30-year-old Havertown native spent his adolescent years working on the Main Line—first as a busboy and later as a cook at Ardmore’s Café San Pietro.

Growing up, Storey’s family was in the wholesale fruit-and-vegetable business. Enamored by life in the kitchen, he went to cooking school, graduating from New York’s Culinary Institute of America in 2002. Following a Center City externship at Susanna Foo in 2001, Storey returned home to work for Foo full time, where he remained for more than seven years. During that time, he helped open Foo’s Radnor restaurant and Michael Mina’s Sea Blue at the Borgata in Atlantic City. Storey also became close to Patrick Feury, who helped mold him into the chef he is today. He became chef de cuisine at Nectar in Berwyn, taking over all kitchen operations for Feury while he and brother Terence opened the now-defunct Maia in Villanova.

At Nectar, Storey met Tammin Kim, a graduate of Boston University’s renowned Hospitality Administration Program. After a stint as executive chef for Marathon on the Square in Philly, he and Kim decided to venture out on their own in 2010. “You can work under someone really good, or you can make a name for yourself,” says Storey of his decision.

Open since this past June, Green Bean is filling a void in the area. Storey spent three months working with Chestnut Hill coffee roasters. He also develops relationships with the local farmers from whom he sources his ingredients.

What was the hardest part of getting the café off the ground? Location, location. Storey and Kim searched everywhere, from Northern Liberties to Media, before deciding on Gladwyne. “It was a nightmare, but it worked out for the best,” says Storey.

Green Bean Coffee, 358 Righters Mill Road, Gladwyne;
(484) 412-8266, greenbeangladwyne.com.

—Beth Ceccarelli
 

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The Roundabout Chef

Chef Tina Krinsky. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)

Tina Krinsky has been in enough world-renowned kitchens to make any chef jealous. From the Arzak in San Sebastián, Spain, to Les Crayères in Reims, France, she certainly isn’t at a loss for enviable culinary experiences.

“I was getting my college education, but not in cooking,” says Krinsky, a graduate of Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia. “I sought it out by working with famous chefs and constantly going to cooking schools and taking classes.”

Her appreciation for ingredients, their histories and bringing them together in the kitchen led her back to the Main Line, where she’s been for 25 years now—18 of them spent as director of the Julian Krinsky School of Cooking for kids and young adults ages 10-18. And, yes, she is married to Julian.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Krinsky was profoundly influenced by her Italian grandmother’s cooking. Krinsky aims to convey that same passion to her students. “Today’s young chefs have strayed from grandma’s traditional recipes, and they gravitate to the world of celebrity chefs,” she says. “I want to develop students’ critical appreciation of food.”

Krinsky still travels frequently, learning as she goes and attending cooking schools whenever possible. She has a diploma from the Rhode School of Cuisine in Tuscany’s Villa Lucia. She’s also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international society for women in the food, beverage and hospitality business.

In her classes, Krinsky tries to change the way young adults see food, taking them to farms to see how food is grown and teaching proper knife skills. “I’ve been very blessed,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of experiences, and I feel like I have to share them.”

Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs, 610 S. Henderson Road, King of Prussia; (610) 265-3678, jkcp.com/cooking.

—B.C.
 

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The Rising Star

Chef Jason Curtis. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)

On any given night at Gilmore’s in West Chester, you’ll find sous chef Jason Curtis working through menu ideas, prepping food and getting ready for the night’s dinner service. And, for the time being, he can’t imagine being anywhere else.

“Gilmore’s is definitely structured a little bit differently than what I’ve known in the restaurant industry,” he says. “It’s more of a team rather than just a number of individuals.”

Being Peter Gilmore’s right-hand man at his acclaimed French eatery has impacted the 27-year-old in some pretty profound ways. Last May, Curtis was named one of the country’s top young chefs in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Commis, a grueling international competition.

Curtis tried computer science at Drexel University for a year before transferring into its culinary arts program. He never finished, joining Georges’ in Wayne as its sous chef. “I figured the time at work was a lot more important for my career than staying in school and going into debt,” he says now.

After Curtis left Georges’ in 2008 and went to Gilmore’s, he was encouraged to enter the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Commis. For the competition, each young chef gets a mystery basket with a few key ingredients and is asked to plan a three-course meal in 30 minutes, then prepare and serve it in four hours.

Curtis took first place in the Mid-Atlantic regional with a red snapper mousse atop cucumber “cappellini,” braised short ribs, and dark-chocolate-and-dried-cherry mousse. He won the national competition in Seattle a few months later with an equally ambitious menu. And while he didn’t take the international leg, it hasn’t dulled his passion in the least.

“I like to experiment and work with ingredients I don’t know too much about,” he says. “I don’t like things to be boring.”

What’s in Curtis’ future? “I’ve been dreaming about having a restaurant of my own since I can remember,” he says.

Until that day, you know where to find him.

Gilmore’s, 133 E. Gay St., West Chester; (610) 431-2800, gilmoresrestaurant.com.

—B.C.
 

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The Modest Master

Chef John DiPrimio. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)

John DiPrimio has fond memories of the time he worked as a sous chef under famed celebrity chef Michael Chiarello. As a Culinary Institute of America graduate, he was more than thrilled to cook for his former classmate. “It was like boot camp,” recalls DiPrimio. “Those two years made me tough.”

And tough he was, beating out countless other young talents to become only one of 40 in the nation to win a scholarship to the School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley. DiPrimio went to class by day and closed down Chiarello’s Tra Vigne at night. He also learned infinite amounts from Beringer Vineyards co-founder Madeleine Kamman, whom DiPrimio describes as “Julia Child from Philly.” He expanded his culinary talents to renowned restaurants like the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit, before coming back east.

But DiPrimio is a local guy at heart. A Havertown resident and proud father of two boys, he grew up in a South Philly Italian family, where the Sunday gravy was always on the stove and the sights, sounds and smells of the kitchen ignited his love for food at a young age. He works one day a week at a local CSA, likes a good slice of pizza from Marra’s on East Passyunk Avenue, and cooks up a mean Friday-night pasta dinner at the Narberth Café, his Main Line eatery with a self-described “Norman Rockwell feel.”

As executive chef at Drexelbrook Catering & Corporate Events Center for 15 years, DiPrimio hardly went unnoticed, as his skills were often tapped for high-profile political events. He even catered a dinner for George W. Bush during his reelection campaign in 2003. “I wanted to do a Texas barbecue theme, using local ingredients,” he says. “But they wanted cheesesteaks, hoagies and water ice.”

In 2007, DiPrimio decided he wanted to spend more time with his kids. For him, the Narberth Café has been a perfect fit. Stop by on any given day, and DiPrimio will welcome you with a friendly smile and perhaps a few stories. He may even send you home with a container of his famous bolognese.

Narberth Café, 109 N. Narberth Ave., Narberth; (610) 664-9263, narberthcafe.com.

—B.C.

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Chef Marina Kamilatos. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)The Feel-Good Success Story

If there’s one thing evident about Marina Kamilatos, it’s that family is the cornerstone of everything she does. The Greek tradition runs deep for this soft-spoken mother of three. The restaurant she owns, Lourdas Greek Taverna in Bryn Mawr, is named after the Greek village where her grandfather was born, and she admits that much of what she has and who she is today is because of her yia yia (grandmother).

Kamilatos has certainly done her homework, poring over cookbooks and issue after issue of Bon Appetit to learn everything she can about cooking, taking frequent trips to Greece to absorb its food and culture. And, of course, she does her best to emulate her yia yia, who was always recreating recipes she brought with her from Greece to Ellis Island, N.Y., in 1925.

“Out of all the cousins, I’m the only one who took after her,” says Kamilatos. “No one can make her pita bread except me—even my mom. I’m carrying on a tradition.”

As a teenager, Kamilatos worked at her father’s Kennett Square restaurant, where she and her sisters managed the ice cream and coffee stations. Little did she know, the work she did back then would figure prominently in her life down the road. Following a divorce 20 years ago, Kamilatos worked up to three jobs a day to make ends meet. Through it all, she always had dinner on the table for her daughter and two sons.

Then, in 1999, Kamilatos made a bold decision. “I didn’t always want to have a restaurant, but it was always in the back of my mind as something I’d like to do one day,” she says.

Lourdas opened a year later. “I couldn’t have done it without my kids,” she says.

All three have worked at the restaurant in some capacity—and still do. Meanwhile, their mom somehow found the time to author Lourdas: A Greek Family Cookbook.

Aside from its signature lamb and fish dishes, Lourdas is known as a place that oozes familial authenticity. “This is ours,” Kamilatos says of the restaurant. “If you put your mind to something, you can do anything you want. Anything.”

Lourdas Greek Taverna, 50 N. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 520-0288, lourdasgreektaverna.com.

—B.C.

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Chef Vince Viola. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)The Bull in the China Shop

Yangming received a blizzard of publicity earlier this year when Chinese Restaurant News named the Bryn Mawr institution the No. 1 Chinese restaurant in the United States. What was pretty much overlooked in the resulting tsunami of press coverage, however, was the fact that Yangming may also be the only Chinese restaurant in the country with an Italian-American chef.

In the summer of 1990, eight months before Yangming opened for business at Haverford and Conestoga roads, Vince Viola was hired as one of two co-executive chefs by owner Michael Wei. The other, Muyang Shen, is Taiwanese and has also been there 21 years.

On the roulette table of life, what are the odds that an Italian-American would even apply for a job in the kitchen of an upscale Chinese restaurant?

“I’ve always been fascinated with Asian food,” says Viola. “For years, I would experiment with things like egg rolls and spring rolls. When I met Michael, he said he would have chefs from China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, so I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to learn about Asian cooking.”

Why did Wei take a chance on Viola? “My idea was to have a new type of Asian restaurant that would have two kitchens—one Western and one Asian,” says Wei. “I planned to infuse Western dishes with Asian seasonings and use a lot of wine in reduced sauces. Viola had a very good background for what I was looking for, and he seemed like a nice guy. He can do everything in the kitchen—Western or Asian.”

Viola’s temperament is as smooth as chocolate mousse, and he’s clearly found his sweet spot in the upper echelon of local chefs. He grew up in Manayunk and attended Roman Catholic High School. He started at the bottom, picking up dirty towels in the locker rooms and washing dishes in the kitchen at Merion Cricket Club at age 13.

In the early 1970s, country clubs were excellent training grounds for young chefs. They could afford the luxury of having a kid like Viola do nothing but make sauces or salads for a year.
 

Continued on page 8 …
 

“I decided to put off college for a year to build up my bank account,” says Viola. “But then I met so many great chefs that I couldn’t pull myself away from it. Some of the older European ones were nasty and arrogant, but some of the American chefs I worked with were absolutely wonderful.”

Viola worked at Merion from 1970 to 1980, then moved on to Green Valley and Torresdale-Frankford country clubs, and later to Philadelphia Cricket Club and Radnor Valley Country Club. “I’ve worked for Jewish, Catholic, Italian and Irish country clubs,” says Viola.

Then came Yangming. “This is an ideal situation that I don’t think could be improved on anywhere else,” he says. “Whatever I say we need—whether it be new equipment, caviar, truffles, whatever—Michael makes sure we have it.”

As one might expect, the recent award hype has led to an uptick in business. “With all the competition, we’ll take any advantage we can get,” says Viola.

If there’s one thing most restaurant patrons probably don’t understand, it’s the physical and emotional toll that working in the kitchen can exact.

“When Yangming first opened, I worked six months without a day off and more 80- to 100-hour workweeks than I care to remember,” Viola admits. “I have spinal stenosis and ruptured discs. But I have a great chiropractor and, with therapy and workouts four or five days a week, he keeps me in one piece. I now work 64-68 hours a week, and I’m in the restaurant seven days.”

Viola’s wife, Theresa, is a facilities designer. They have two children: Amanda, who works in human resources for a major insurance company and lives in Belmont Hills with her husband, and Vince III, who has a job with a large food supplier and resides in Havertown. There are no grandchildren—yet.

“But we have a bunch of dogs instead,” Viola quips.

Yangming, 1051 Conestoga Road, Bryn Mawr; (610) 527-3200, yangmingrestaurant.com.

—Len Lear

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