Power Players You Need to Know Right Now

By Danya Henninger  |  October 28, 2013
Credit: Danya Henninger

The Philly food scene continues to trend up, drawing culinary bon vivants to our city and sparking feature stories in national media. Read on to meet eight of the people who are driving forces behind the current surge - power players who make things happen, both in the kitchen and on the street.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Steven Cook

    Trading in cooking duties for the admin side of things appears to have been a solid move for this onetime Marigold Kitchen chef. Along with business partner Michael Solomonov, he keeps customers and critics happy at top-rated Zahav and Percy Street Barbecue, is opening at least two new outposts of cult-fave Federal Donuts, and is bringing even more excitement to Sansom Street next year with the launch of adjacent restaurants Abe Fisher and Dizengoff.

    Pictured: Cook (far right) with Peter Woolsey (Bistrot La Minette), Michael Solomonov and David Katz (Creekstone Farms)

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Jeffrey Michaud

    While Marc Vetri is an obvious Philly food star, one of his culinary deputies is starting to shine a broad light of his own. Jeff Michaud just published his first cookbook Eating Italy and oversaw the launch of instant smash hit Pizzeria Vetri. After installing his first-ever chef de cuisine at the original Osteria on North Broad, he’s working on the launch of a suburban Osteria in the Moorestown Mall. All that and easy on the eyes too.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Emilio Mignucci

    Though he partnered with his brother and his cousin to take over the family business from their grandfather, Mignucci is the most prominent public face of Di Bruno Bros., which lately means he is everywhere. An impressive new fifth retail shop just launched at Ninth and Chestnut, and it seems like every hot new cafe is opening with Di Bruno’s provided snacks. The gourmet brand has become one of the most prominent jewels in Philadelphia’s culinary crown.

    Pictured (left to right): Bill, Billy and Emilio Mignucci

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Valerie Safran

    Marcie Turney’s cooking continues to draw diners from near and far to Midtown Village, but it’s thanks to her longtime partner that the logistics of getting them all seated and served go so smoothly. Now that Little Nonna’s is up and running, she’s coordinating a revamp of Lolita and scheming on what to do with the couple’s currently empty restaurant space at 13th and Locust. Safran occasionally contributes to the food side of things too - the brilliant frozen Barbuzzo budino pops this summer were her brainstorm.

  • Credit: L. Hugill

    Dan Clark

    You could easily spend an evening at the bar at Pub & Kitchen and have no idea your drinking partner was the owner of the place. As laid-back as Clark is, his restaurateur instincts are sharply honed. Along with partner Ed Hackett, he’s gone from running just the pabbit-emblazoned Rittenhouse pub to overseeing three others as well, including a swanky Jersey Shore seafooder (The Diving Horse), a college campus burger joint (Rowan University’s Prime Burger) and the latest, American bistro Fitler Dining Room. We’re betting there’s more good stuff to come.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Nicole Marquis

    The young owner of HipCityVeg wasn’t necessarily expecting to cause a revolution in the world of vegan quick-serve cuisine, but that’s pretty much what happened - on a local scale, at least. She’s hoping to replicate the lines out the door in Rittenhouse at her just-launched storefront in University City, and her name also appears on a lease at a still-vacant space in Midtown Village. More veggies for all.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Tony Luke, Jr.

    The man who brought real-deal Philly cheesesteaks to frozen supermarket aisles everywhere back in 2009 has been shaking things up again lately. In addition to his original South Philly Tony Luke's, he’s got several stands inside Lincoln Financial Field, plus franchises around the world, with outposts as far away as Bahrain. He just landed a spot as a judge on a Spike TV food reality show, and he's also producing and starring in a feature film. No idea how he does it all, but if you meet him, you can’t deny his energy is infectious.

    Pictured: Tony Luke, Jr. (left) with Tony Bruno of 97.5 FM

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Adam Ritter

    After launching Sidecar Bar & Grille because his Graduate Hospital neighborhood was bereft of good craft beer, Ritter caught the bar-owner bug and left a corporate job to do the restaurant thing full-time. Kraftwork in Fishtown came next, and this year he’s back even farther southwest of his original haunt with Kermit’s Bake Shoppe, a unique combination bakery and pizzeria. If there’s a neighborhood you think needs a boost, give this man a call, he may know what to do.