EVER SINCE CHEF Shola Olunloyo left Bleu in 2000 and started teensy Studiokitchen — a storied eight-person private dining room in his West Philly apartment — he’s lapped up much love as Philly’s Best Chef Without a Restaurant. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been cooking up some deals to get his hands on one. For the past year, talk about a new and mysterious Olunloyo eatery has been the buzz of many a foodie dinner party, but it wasn’t until midsummer that actual news surfaced: Yes, there would be a restaurant, and Olunloyo was eyeing Stephen Starr’s now-defunct Washington Square as a potential site. It’s not often that Starr offers up his spots (he tends to reconceptualize), but one restaurant insider indicated that Olunloyo might get help pushing the deal past the finish line from a surprising (quarter) backer: Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told our source he was thinking of getting in the game.
A press-wary Olunloyo denies any such deal is in the works (though he says the two have talked in the past), and the Lurie camp had no comment on why — or if — the Eagles honcho would stake the first-time chef/owner. Still, a power backer who knows how to run a team would make sense for food-focused Olunloyo, and some restaurant insiders are cheering on the potential pairing. “I think it would be great for the city to have a good place in that quiet restaurant area,” says Rouge owner Maggie Wasserman. “Once one person has success there, it’ll change the neighborhood.”