Unlike his onetime boss Ed Rendell, Tom Knox’s mark as a foodie has been made through quality, not quantity. The 66-year-old mayoral candidate has owned two restaurants — the University City bistro La Terrasse and defunct Beaujolais, near Rittenhouse — and now is looking to take his gourmet agenda into City Hall.
PHILLY MAG: How did you become a restaurateur?
TOM KNOX: By accident. I was a limited partner in a restaurant group, and the general partner decided to leave. The only one of us that had any business experience was me, so I became general partner of La Terrasse. The general partner also sold us Carolina’s, which I redid into Beaujolais.
PM: What do you think of the smoking ban?
TK: I think it’s a great thing. It should have been enacted years ago.
PM: Council has also banned trans fats.
TK: If we can pursue healthier food and it’s not creating a lot of havoc, we should do it. Substituting one oil for another shouldn’t be too difficult.
PM: There are restaurateurs who think being told how to cook intrudes on their business.
TK: We tell them you can’t serve horsemeat. We don’t let them serve rat or cat.
PM: When did you become interested in food?
TK: When you grow up poor, you’re always interested in food. That’s what interested me: not having any.
PM: You’re interested in wine, too.
TK: I used to own a winery, Château Luzerne, at 3rd and Luzerne. I would go out to California and buy a million gallons of wine, we’d have tanker cars bring it back, and we would blend it here and bottle it.
PM: Where do you like to go out to eat?
TK: Four Seasons, Le Bec-Fin, the Prime Rib, Nineteen, Susanna Foo, Davio’s and Matyson. And I don’t want to forget La Terrasse. When I become mayor, I’ll be in a different restaurant every night.
PM: It sounds like you won’t be continuing Mayor Street’s fitness crusade.
TK: I think a mayor leads by example. I go to the gym four or five times a week. I can eat anything I want.