Stephen Starr Is Having a Big, Big Moment

From local restaurateur to national name, overnight. Plus: He tells us he's going to be opening more restaurants here in Philly.
(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

When you get your new issue of Vanity Fair in the mail with actor-hunk Chris Pratt posing shirtless on the cover, you may be surprised at who’s on page 48: none other than Philadelphia’s own Stephen Starr.

The 62-year-old, who changed the Philly dining scene when he opened The Continental way back in 1995, sat down for a fun interview with veteran New York reporter Lesley M. M. Blume.

It’s true that “All You Need to Know About Raucous Restaurant Impresario Stephen Starr” won’t give you what its title literally promises about Starr, who now has 33 — yes, 33! — restaurants in four states and Washington D.C., plus one in Paris in which he’s a partner, but you will pick up some enjoyable tidbits.

Some of our favorites:

• He got fired from his first job as a DJ for mashing up “Light My Fire” by the Doors with “Tears of Rage” by Joan Baez.

• He once paid Jerry Seinfeld all of $75 to perform at a club he owned.

• He’s terribly afraid of heights.

• “Trust no one” is his motto.

The Vanity Fair piece is a nice followup to Starr’s recent huge press hit in the New York Times. Starr’s French spot Le Coucou is all the rage among New York City’s gourmand set (we’ve issued a moratorium on the word “foodie”— blech), and the Times’s infamously hard-to-please critic Pete Wells is similarly enthused about it, calling it the single best restaurant in New York for 2016.

Starr is a very private person, so we wondered how he’s dealing with his newfound high profile.

“I’ve got lots of Champagne and jacuzzis,” he jests. “I just do what I always do, which is work. The New York Times thing especially, after all the hard work all these years, is pretty awesome. It’s like winning the Super Bowl. And our staff throughout the company is overwhelmingly proud. They are a part of it.”

Though he’s got more big plans in other cities, he’s not done with Philadelphia just yet. Starr is currently working on the old Serafina space in Rittenhouse Square, which he says should open this summer, though he hasn’t landed on an exact concept just yet.

“I’d like to do it before the summer,” he explains. “But if I don’t feel great about it, I won’t do the idea. I want to feel really positive about it.”

Plus, Starr tells us, he’s currently scouting a couple of other locations in Philly.

“I’m definitely going to do more stuff outside of Philly,” he says. “But I want to do more at home, too. It’s nice to leave your restaurant and then be in bed five minutes later.”

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