Feds Investigating Alleged Wage Theft at Stephen Starr Restaurant

L: Stephen Starr (Photo by Jacqueline Larma/AP) R: The interior of Talula's Garden (Photo via Starr Restaurants)

Left: Stephen Starr (photo by Jacqueline Larma/AP). Center: The interior of Talula’s Garden (photo via Starr Restaurants). Right: Aimee Olexy (photo by HughE Dillon).

The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating a cook’s claim that he and other employees at a Stephen Starr restaurant were forced to work without pay, Philadelphia magazine has learned. The scheme allegedly cost each of them thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Robert Fitz, a line cook at Talula’s Garden from 2015 through early 2016, filed a federal complaint in August. Fitz says he told officials that line cooks at the farm-to-table restaurant on Washington Square were expected to start work between roughly 11 a.m. and noon each day, but weren’t allowed to clock in until 3 p.m. The employees spent the off-the-clock hours preparing to begin serving dinner at 5 p.m., he says. Read more »

Stephen Starr To Take Over Serafina Spot

Serafina location at 18th and Sansom will become a Stephen Starr restaurant.

Serafina location at 18th and Sansom will become a Stephen Starr restaurant.

Serafina is going to be taken over by Stephen Starr. The Italian restaurant from New York landed with significant fanfare in 2011. It was immediately the place to see and be seen but its bloom faded quickly with lackluster and comically bad reviews. Then there was the Cliff Lee incident. And since then, the restaurant has gotten by on tourists, Rittenhouse Square lifers and its location on bustling 18th Street. According to Michael Klein, Serafina will remain open through November before Starr moves in.

Starr has not settled on a concept for the 160-seat restaurant and the Bunker LLC on the liquor license doesn’t give too much away. We’re guessing it isn’t a golf or World War I themed restaurant.

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Philadelphia: Leading Exporter of Restaurants

Photo via Popville

Village Whiskey rising next to La Colombe in Washington D.C. | Photo via Popville

Last week, the Washington Post published an article about the Philadelphia restaurateurs coming to Washington D.C. and wondered if the next export from Philadelphia might be the Liberty Bell itself. The Post chronicled the southerly march of Philadelphia’s culinary elites like Stephen Starr, Jose Garces, Todd Carmichael and Marc Vetri, as well as the fast casual concepts like Honeygrow and HipCityVeg. Six concepts originating in Philadelphia are on the drawing board for D.C. Those will join seven Philadelphia businesses that have already landed in the nation’s capital. And then there are the future hopes of the likes of Starr, who says he’s close to nailing down two more spots and Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby (Vedge, V Street) who are actively looking for a D.C. location.

Among the reasons Philadelphia restaurants are considering D.C., proximity, demographics and it isn’t New York, which is seen as a daunting place to open and operate.

Check out Philadelphia’s culinary exports »

Starr CFO Bruce Koch Passes Away

bruce koch linkedin

Bruce Koch, 60, Starr CFO

Starr Restaurants Chief Financial Officer Bruce Koch died Tuesday, January 26th after suffering a stroke on Saturday. Koch was 60 years-old.

In addition to being the CFO of Stephen Starr’s restaurant organization, Koch was known for his love of music, juggling being involved in two bands with overseeing the finances of the restaurant empire.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, February 6th, at 1 p.m. at the Germantown Friends Meetinghouse, 47 West Coulter Street. Details regarding a musical tribute will be announced later.

Bruce Koch, 60, bassist and Starr CFO [Philly.com]

News for People Who Like Bad News: New Year’s Edition

il-pittore-dining-room-940While we were on our year-end break the hospitality industry saw several closures and changes.

The biggest news is that Il Pittore will close after service on Saturday, January 9th. The restaurant has been a partnership between Stephen Starr and Starr’s former culinary director, Chris Painter. The restaurant has received critical acclaim since its 2011 opening and was recently included in Philadelphia magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2016. According to Alex Tewfik of Eater, Painter is planning to leave the Starr universe and to go it alone. As for the Il Pittore space, which was formerly Noble, Eater says plans are already in motion to reconceptualize the space.

Read more »

Talula’s Daily Hosting Slow Fires Cookbook Dinner

slow-fires-400wOn Monday, November November 30th, Aimee Olexy and Talula’s Daily are hosting chef Justin Smillie of the acclaimed Upland in New York. It’s a night of Starr Restaurants synergy (Upland is a Starr restaurant) as Smillie will be celebrating his new cookbook, Slow Fires during the $100 per person dinner. The book explores the fundamentals of braising, roasting and grilling as well as how to break those rules.

Diners will have a chance to chat with Smillie after he cooks dishes from his book. The dinner begins at 7 p.m. and a wine pairing will be available for an additional $60. Pick up a signed copy of Slow Fires for $40 at the event.

On the menu »

The First Phase of The Playground Is Opening This Weekend

Concept for The Playground's T Street.

Concept for The Playground’s T Street.

With record speed, the first phase of The Playground, known as “T Street,” is officially opening its doors to the public this Friday in Atlantic City.

The Playground is Bart Blatstein‘s reinvigoration program for the Pier Shops at Ceasars, which will hold 14 music venues, two private clubs, a bowling alley and a massive sports bar when all’s said and done. Since we’ve already talked venues, attractions, and construction, how about we talk eats?

Read more »

PHOTOS: Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival 2015

On Saturday, Rittenhouse Row hosted their annual Spring Festival on what just so happened to be one of the most beautiful spring days of the year so far. Thousands showed up to the event, which took place along Walnut Street from Broad to Rittenhouse Square. There were DJs and bands; musicians from The Curtis Institute entertaining the crowd; family-friendly activities keeping kids entertained; and a couple beer gardens for the grownups. On the food front, the 1800 block of Walnut Street was rife with nibbles from Rittenhouse Row’s  STARR restaurants, including Alma de Cuba, Barclay Prime, Butcher and Singer, Continental Midtown, The Dandelion, El Rey and Parc.

I snapped some photos of the afternoon; enjoy them below:

I also stopped by the South Street Spring Festival. See those photos here.

Tableau: The New Cafe Open Inside PAFA

PAFACafeA new cafe is now open in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Tableau is run by Starr Restaurants Catering and is located inside the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building at 128 North Broad Street.

The menu is simple cafe fare–a variety of soups, sandwiches, salads and baked goods–and there’s also a full coffee bar serving La Colombe coffee. The place also has a liquor license, so it’s serving a selection of wine and beer, with special discounts for PAFA members.

Tableau opens at 8am, Monday through Friday, and at 11am on Saturdays and Sundays. Large paintings by PAFA student artists decorate the walls, and floor-to-ceiling glass doors allow for the cafe to be opened to the outside in warm weather–which, with any luck, we’ll be seeing soon.

Tableau [Official]

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