Think You Can Guess The Next Chef At Talula’s Garden?

Photo courtesy Danya Henninger

Yesterday, we posted an update on the revolving-chef action at Talula’s Garden, with a quote from corporate overlord Stephen Starr claiming that there’d be a new white jacket bossing the line “in five days.”

This, of course, began the speculation about who he and partner Aimee Olexy had in mind for the suicide mission honor of being the restaurant’s third exec in four months. People were searching Foobooz’s roster of Sideline Chefs for likely replacements. And here at the home office, we killed a good part of our afternoon proposing various possibilities and conspiracy theories for who would step into the vacancy in Olexy’s kitchen.

At some point, it occurred to us that if we were having so much fun trying to read the minds of Starr and Olexy, you folks might also enjoy the challenge. You might be able to think of some potential replacements that we couldn’t. Hell, you might even know something that we hadn’t yet heard. So we decided to turn it into a game. And yes, there will be prizes.

So here’s how we’re going to play…

In the comments section, name the chef that you think Starr and Olexy are going to choose as the new executive chef at Talula’s Garden. Use whatever foul means, dirty tricks and insider information you have at your disposal to come up with your choice, then show your work–explain why your pony is the one that’s going to cross the finish line first.

For example, if I were to ignore all personal history, gossip and the fact that he currently has a job running another big time Rittenhouse Square restaurant (A.Kitchen), I might say that Bryan Sikora is going to be the next exec at Talula’s. My reasoning? He worked at Django, one of the hottest restaurants of its age. He opened Talula’s Table with (then wife) Aimee Olexy, so understands the heart of the inspiration behind Talula’s Garden better than anyone. Also, he has a habit of walking away from successful kitchens (see: Django, Talula’s Table, SoDel Concepts, the Cosmopolitan), which has just got to be one of the personality traits that Starr and Olexy are subconsciously picking up on these days.

So that’s it. Pick your chef, show your work and explain your reasoning. Answers go below. And if one of you actually do end up picking the chef that’ll be running the kitchen at Talula’s come Monday, you will be crowned King of Foobooz (a meaningless title, but it does give you an excuse to wear a crown around if you want) and win a very cool, very expensive prize (which we can not yet reveal).

Ready? Let the games begin…

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  • Ryan

    Shane Solomon – Currently at Pizzeria Stella, which some would say is a step down from his previous gig at Washington Square, which just happens to be in the same location as Talula’s Table. He is obviously still in Starr’s good graces and has a variety of cuisine under his belt having worked at Tangerine, Stripped Bass and Angelina.

  • @Ryan. Good guess. See, folks? That’s the way it’s done.

  • Anthony

    Todd Lean- late of Mandoline, last I heard he was at Pod. His style is notably simpler than Santoro or Moon (happy, LaBan?) And his goat cheese pistachio appetizer, which has haunted my dreams for years, would look right at home on a new, “less fussy” TG menu.

  • My entry is Brinn Sinnott. He has a great pedigree, having worked at Four Seasons, LaCroix and recently Noble before that was bought out by Starr. Perhaps a single degree of separation there. He has the artistic plating and cooking technique that will work for Talula’s.

  • NE food boy

    Maybe Michael Falcone chef/owner of Funky Lil’Kitchen in Pottstown, he has been looking to relocate to the city for some time. He cooks a solid bistro style American Farm Menu and has worked @ Sonoma where they did some high cover counts and he received a glowing review from LaBan in the past.

  • Brad

    What about Brinn Sinnott (formally of Noble)? Starr is giving former employees of the restaurant preferential interviews through out his empire. Sinnott’s food at Noble was solid and in that same category of contemporary American farm to table.

  • Dan

    Scott Swiderski – I think he worked at Buddakan so Starr knows him and he can handle the covers. I think he was supposed to open Serafina and is now looking for work…

  • Dan

    BTW, Jim Burke would be an awesome choice but I think you reported he’ll be opening a Starr place in NYC…

  • D

    Mark Hellyar, he was in Talula’s snooping around the other night and had connections w/ Santoro and a couple people in the kitchen now

  • anotherfoodie

    Jennifer Carroll??? Is that crazy?

  • Tex

    Marcus Samuelsson

  • @anotherfoodie It is crazy, but not the crazy-est suggestion we’ve heard. Give your explanation of how/why it could work.

  • Michael G

    Chase Utley lives in the building maybe he can be available in early November when he finishes his summer gig.

  • anotherfoodie

    Well, she’s leaving 10 Arts with no announced plans. She has the local fame that will generate a lot of attention. Her experience is in line with TG’s needs and her style of cooking works with their concept. Plus AO hasn’t had too much like with the big ego male chefs.

  • anotherfoodie

    I meant too much luck.

  • YoYo


  • lilpit

    Is the timing of the post purposely so that we have something to occupy our minds all weekend other than hurricanes?

    Sinott’s not a bad guess, but I doubt he wants to turn 200 a night. Swiderski would never work for Stephen again. I’ll go with Shane Solomon – I was thinking someone from inside the Starr mothership, and he qualifies.

  • I was going to guess Mark Hellyar as well. Great resume and has a solid chef de cuisine who could easily move into executive chef position.

  • A. Bosch

    I like the made for TV choice, Mike Santoro. LaBan may not have been a huge fan of the experience, but apparently Bon Appetit (and others) were. Of course, there is probably too much drama there.

  • foodie77077

    Matt Levin

  • foodie77077

    Levin- He is already a 4 bell chef(Lacoix) and he must be sick of making burgers and fries with some sort of weird twist. Matt can cook and something tells me he has the fire burning inside him right now after his sudden change of title at Adsum.

  • Jay

    according to this, swiderski would absolutely work with starr again. I know, it could just be a quote, but when you work for someone, anyone for 15 years, you obviously had SOME good times. And recharging the batteries might put a gloss on the good times and obscure the bad times.

  • Nancy

    My guess (hope) is Michael Thomas, formerly of Bar Ferdinand/ Kraftwork. A very talented chef with a devoted group of fans waiting for him to find a new spot to shine.

  • jojo

    @ Lilpit. Why wouldnt Sinott want to turn 200 a night? He is a chef after all, thats what they do. But he has nothing to worry about, TT isnt even touching 200 covers a night.

    Swiderski is working @ Buddakan Atlantic City. So i guess he would work with SS again…

    @ Nancy… Michael Thomas is a great chef and i love his food, but he need to start working at places for more then two weeks. (One Shot, Kraftwork)

  • cambrai

    It’s gonna be Artie Cavalliere,he took over Parc and
    rocked it, very talented and i know uncle stephen is
    a big fan

  • I say Matt Levin as well. The word on the curb is that he’s one of the handful that have done tasting interviews, he is awesome and he needs a job. I want to know if I get extra points for guessing the over/under on how long he lasts.

  • Dana

    Alison Barshak, because it’s just time for her to come back to Philly.

  • Kenny K

    I vote Brinn Sinnott also – food philosophy is very similar to TG and he’s already connected to Sith Lord Starr’s empire. The only thing I can see preventing this is some bitterness on Sinnott’s part about Starr buying out Noble, although we don’t know the terms of the agreement, so it could have actually been a good thing for Brinn.

  • Food Phan

    5 days have passed, fess it up Starr.

  • #1starrfan

    I vote Sean McPaul. He was just promoted to chef de cuisine when Santoro left. Starr should just bump him up another notch, stick with what he knows, keep things simple. And id heard rave reviews about his cucumber soup.

  • chefwhosaw

    Chris will go BACK from TT to TG. Why? In a huge and surprising turn of events, TT will stop doing their ultra exclusive tasting (why do it if the perception is that it’s lost its luster?) thus relieving AO of having to put a stud in place at the shoppe. Chris was the opening sous at TG, has the chops and now that the fur has stopped flying, they’ll let him alone to do the food he was born to do.

  • g

    sean mcpaul, san fran

  • #1starrfan

    So foobooz, about this prize…

  • CDAbeatsoff

    @#1starrfan- I think your post was a little late. Even i knew he had the job, along with dozens of others on September 2nd.

  • heyheyhey

    I agree with CDAbeatsit.

  • Jerseychow

    Hey CDA, if you knew you should have posted and been a winner….as it is you lose

  • #1starrfan

    Agreed Jerseychow, at least someone would’ve won something. Would’ve posted the night before, when it was decided, but I opted to go out and celebrate with mr.McPaul.:). Oh well. At least that kithchens in some good hands

  • @#1Starrfan

    Hey, something tells me you have a bit of a connection with the chef/restaurant in question? Either way, you came in with the right answer, and since I actively encouraged cheating, dirty trickery and inside information, that makes you a DOUBLE winner.

    Drop me an email, man, and we’ll discuss that prize…

  • #1starrfan

    I sure do;). And what is you email address?