by Len Lear
About 15 years ago I was interviewing a resident of Benezet Street when I saw a man leaving a nearby house whom I recognized from newspaper and magazine photos. I was actually somewhat star-struck and introduced myself to Steve Poses, who lived in Chestnut Hill from 1991 to 2004.
In case you are not familiar with the name but you do enjoy going to great Philly restaurants, you can thank Steve Poses, 71, who started the Philadelphia Restaurant Renaissance in motion. Philly was a virtual culinary desert (with a few exceptions) when Poses, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, opened Frög in 1973 at 264 S. 16th St. and The Commissary in 1977. The concept for Frög was inspired by Steve’s experience working at Peter von Starck’s French restaurant La Panetiere, the work of Jane Jacobs on the importance of urban renewal and travels throughout Europe and South America.
A book could be written on Poses’ eventual influence on the entire restaurant scene in Philly. (Paul Roller was one of his many acolytes to open their own restaurants.) Frög was cited by Philadelphia magazine on the occasion of the magazine’s 25th anniversary as the “Best Restaurant of the past 25 years.” Alan Richman, a nationally renowned food writer from Philly, wrote a few years ago in the Broad Street Review: “A few years ago Philadelphia magazine called me and asked who I thought was the most important dining/food figure in the history of Philadelphia. I said Steve Poses. (Ed. Note: Not Georges Perrier or Stephen Starr.)
“Steve Poses’ places weren’t the first of their kind, but they were the best and most revered among such fabled spots as The Black Banana, Lickety Split and Astral Plane. They were earlier than Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago, 10 years ahead of New York’s Union Square Cafe. Before their appearance, informal dining in America (not just Philly) was rarely desirable and never chic … ”
Today Poses spends most of his time running Frog Commissary Catering, which has a staff of more than 200 and also caters events offsite across the tri-state area.
But the Philadelphia culinary legend has now created his proudest dish yet, “The Blue Plate Special.” On the evening of Sept. 17, nearly 40 of the city’s top chefs, restaurateurs, distillers and food artisans will join 35 local “blue” candidates in the November mid-term elections at the Franklin Institute for a world-class culinary fundraiser to help turn Pennsylvania blue (Democratic). Former Governor Ed Rendell will serve as the Honorary Executive Chef, manning the slider station at the event.
“A major beneficiary of The Blue Plate Special event is a grassroots organization called Turn PA Blue, and it has Chestnut Hill roots,” Poses told us. “The founder of that organization is Jamie Perrapato. This important organization was essentially founded in (State Senator) Art Haywood’s living room by a group of local citizens. Many volunteers are part of Indivisible Philly NW and include many Chestnut Hill residents.”
Event proceeds will go into the PA Blue Victory Fund, which has been established to help boost the turnout in the upcoming midterm elections and lay the foundations of support for the next few years, focusing on helping under-funded candidates in competitive races and grassroots organizations with the overarching goal of turning the state blue for the next national election.
“Our goal is to make a difference locally, focusing on the counties surrounding Philadelphia,” said Poses, “We want to make an impact on local, state and congressional elections and ultimately in the 2020 presidential election. Essentially, we’re asking people to put their money where their mouths are.”
Many of Philly’s top chefs will be cooking at the fundraising event. Was it hard to get them to take part? “I had an amazing top recruiter,” Poses told us. “It was Rick Nichols, former Philadelphia Inquirer food writer. Rick wrote more than 1200 columns about the Philadelphia food community and is beloved. We had a handful of turn-downs, but overwhelmingly people quickly said ‘I’m in.’ So, not that hard.”
How much of the impetus for the event is due to the opposition to Donald Trump?
“For me,” said Poses, “I grew tired of yelling at my TV. I felt I had to do something to make a difference. So it was very connected because until Trump, I spent almost no time yelling at my TV!”
(Poses’ son, Noah, went to Germantown Friends School and George Washington University and is currently Chef de Cuisine at The Watergate — of all places! — in D.C.)
In addition to food stations from the area’s top culinary innovators, the evening will feature a pep rally in the atrium, during which candidates will gather together on stage for photo opportunities and brief remarks.
For more specifics, prices, etc., visit pabluevictory.org