Life After Top Chef – Philadelphia’s Chef Kevin Sbraga

By Kae Lani Kennedy, Foodable Contributor

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Some might know Kevin Sbraga as the Season 7 Winner of Bravo’s Top Chef, but his reputation in Philadelphia is beyond that of being a famed television chef. Sbraga is celebrated for his innovation and ability to reinvent traditional American dishes, presenting them in unexpected ways, such as making risotto from sunflower seeds, or a fluke crudo featuring jalapeños, yogurt, and pickled strawberries.

Though being a television chef has helped springboard his career, as the memory of Season 7 of Top Chef fades away, being a creative force in the kitchen has proven to be more of an asset to Sbraga, as he continues to fuel his own brand. So far Sbraga has two restaurants in Philadelphia with a highly anticipated third on the way – all of which create fine dining experiences that are not intimidating and easily accessible to everyone.

Sbraga

Beet Tartare at Sbraga | YELP, Mike W. 

Beet Tartare at Sbraga | YELP, Mike W. 

After winning Top Chef, he returned to Philadelphia and opened Sbraga, his first restaurant. His eponymous restaurant is an intimate 60-seat space with a seasonal prix-fixe menu of modern dishes. Each meal begins with the signature dish; a creamy Foie Gras soup. It is then followed by four courses; a light salad or appetizer, a wholesome pasta or grains dish, the main course, and a sweet dessert. As Fall approaches, Sbraga will be introducing an herby, buttery escargot and will continue to serve the Game Hen seasoned with vadouvan spice – both are perfect for cozy Fall evenings.

Just as television cooking shows immerse viewers in the behind the scenes of dining, Sbraga borrowed this from TV by getting guests involved in everything about the food. Servers have a wealth of information about every ingredient used, the process in which it is prepared, and even the perfect beer and wine pairings. Though it is an intimate space, it is open and inviting, with available counter seating for guests who want to watch the excitement of Sbraga’s fast-paced kitchen.  

Aside from being featured on Bravo’s Top Chef, Sbraga’s culinary creativity has been recognized by Esquire Magazine, Bon Appetit, and as of recently, the Sbraga restaurant has been awarded with an OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award for Top Fit for Foodies Restaurants.  

440 S Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19146

The Fat Ham

Country fried lobster at The Fat Ham | YELP, Sam H.

Country fried lobster at The Fat Ham | YELP, Sam H.

Two years after the successful launch of Sbraga, it became evident that Kevin Sbraga was more than just a television chef with a TV-friendly personality. Last December, Sbraga opened a second restaurant, The Fat Ham, in Philadelphia’s University City. The Fat Ham features a Southern inspired menu and is considered fine dining that is family friendly– hey, who said kids don’t have a palate for fine foods! Try from any of The Fat Ham’s perfectly seasoned meats, such as the guest favorite, Hot Chicken, paired with a southern inspired cocktail made from any of the 120 varieties of bourbons and whiskeys available.

3131 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104

Juniper Commons

Chef Sbraga’s third restaurant, Juniper Commons is set to open within the coming months, adding to Sbraga’s steadily growing restaurant group. Inspired by hearty dishes that bring him back to his youth, Sbraga’s newest project is drawn straight from the 80’s. Many dishes that he recalls from his younger years were covered in heavy butter sauces with added cream to prevent the sauces from breaking. Though Sbraga plans to draw from these, he’ll be altering these recipes to make “refined American classics for today’s standards” as he puts it by making the dishes with lighter, but flavorful ingredients.

He plans to feature a baked stuffed flounder, stuffed with crabmeat folded into a shrimp mousse. A rotisserie chicken and a prime rib with a baked potato will also be offered, both of which will be cooked upon a hearth. Just as he involves guests in the cooking process at Sbraga, he plans to bring the theatrics of the kitchen table side with a Caesar Salad made to order at the table, and for dessert, a baked Alaska; ice cream with a layer of cake, topped with tangy meringue, splashed with alcohol and flambéed.  

Juniper Commons will occupy a large space in the Southstar Lofts.  Not only will there be dining in the 1,500 square foot corner of Broad and South, but he plans to incorporate a bar highlighting gin cocktail specials, as well as plans for live music. Baking for all three Sbraga restaurants will also be done in a separate room at this site, but at night, the room will transform into a private dining space, available for parties.  It’s a restaurant that encompasses the essence of Chef Kevin Sbraga; versatile, fun, and creative with a touch of class!

Projected to open in November

521 S Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA