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4 Local Chefs Fill Us in on How They Stayed Busy at Home

By Kristin Detterline | July 20, 2020 | Food & Drink

It’s an anniversary unlike any other as the James Beard Foundation ( celebrates the 30th James Beard Awards Gala without the gala. Like other organizations, the nonprofit decided to press pause on this year’s party due to the pandemic. The foundation’s annual awards are one of the culinary world’s most prestigious honors, recognizing talent from across the country in over a dozen categories. Philadelphia is well represented in 2020, with noteworthy names in the running for best new restaurant, outstanding chef and best chef mid-Atlantic. As these chef-owners adjust to a new way of doing business following months-long closures—and await the official winners announcement Sept. 25—they took a moment to reflect on how they spent their free time while sheltering in place.

Nominated for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic

“I was taught at a very young age by my mother that the best way to reinforce knowledge is to teach. It helps you to better understand what you know and why. I have found solace in the family time that I have managed to have over the past several months. In doing so, we are, as a family, hiking a fair amount, which means I can teach my kids what is and is not edible in our environment and what to do with it. It brings me great joy to see their curiosity and ambition in learning new things and trying ‘weird’ ingredients that we pull out of the ground deep in the woods.” (;;

Nominated for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic

“I have been cooking at home every night and absolutely loving it. I am rediscovering what got me into the business in the first place: the love of cooking, the love of food and of my passion to feed and nourish people. I miss our staff—they are the best—and I miss our guests who have been so supportive, some for over 25 years. It was hard to walk through the dark dining rooms in our boarded-up building at Vedge. But even so, I can’t help but to feel incredibly lucky for what we have. We have also been enjoying a lifestyle that most chefs only see from the stands...trips out to parks, Frisbee catches and runs with our son, long walks and long talks. They say you need darkness to show light; in that light there is hope. We will be back.” (

Nominated for Best New Restaurant

“It might sound strange, but I’ve been enjoying myself during the past few months. My team and I have been very productive trying out new things in the restaurant. I started with an idea of a ‘Phamily’ meal for our friends in the service industry who lost their jobs, then transitioned to meals for those in need, and then we started cooking for healthcare workers. At first we did this with our own funds, then we received help from World Central Kitchen. With their generous donations, we were able to feed even more frontline healthcare workers. On top of that, I created many more new dishes to add to our takeout menu at Kalaya. I often sneak out to do some work in my garden and take care of my husband, Ziv, and our 17-year-old Pomeranian, Ton.” (

Nominated for Outstanding Chef

“To be honest, I’ve been spending my time the same way I always have. Yes, I’m limited to what I can do, but we’re still coming up with new ideas at Vetri and Fiorella every day. Our team has been hard at work creating and pushing the boundaries. I think we’ve learned a lot about our industry over the past couple of months and what we’re really capable of, which is really inspiring. With the extra time I do have, I’ve been creating fun cooking videos with my youngest son, Mario.” (;

Photography by: Neal Santos; Jason Varney; Julie Melton Photography; Steve Legato