Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Philly tie-in to 'America's Next Great Restaurant'

Chicago's Stephenie Park got a crash course in cooking here at Fork.

A Philly tie-in to 'America's Next Great Restaurant'

Stephenie Park. (via NBC)
Stephenie Park. (via NBC)

Stephenie Park is heading into the final episodes of the Sunday night NBC reality series America's Next Great Restaurant, where she's espousing her fast-and-healthy concept, Compleat.

Turns out that the Chicago corporate attorney got her first taste of the kitchen life here in Philly.

Park, who has her law degree from Harvard, had just graduated from Penn in 2003 with a bachelor's in economics when she decided to join the Peace Corps. Since she would not leave till the fall, she decided to remain in Philly and get a temp job in the restaurant industry. "Initially, I asked to become a server," she told me. "But I didn't have serving experience. I told restaurants that. Apparently, you're supposed to lie about that."

Hence, no callbacks.

Until she reached Ellen Yin, owner of Old City's Fork.

Yin interviewed her, and quickly decided that Park would not become a server. She steered Park to Thien Ngo, at the time Fork's exec chef.

He said, `You have a good face,' " Park recalls, being flattered. "He also told me, `You don’t have any bad habits to break.' "

Park says she started shelling fava beans, and on her third or fourth day, she worked on the line, learning knife skills and how to sautee. "I made Korean pancakes ... 100 of them. He wouldn’t allow me to touch them with my fingers" -- only tongs and spatulas, she says. 

Her restaurant concept was inspired by Chicago's cold. "There's something about having solid food on a cold day that feels satisfying, but it has to be healthful, too," she says.

Update: She was eliminated on the April 24 telecast.

Staff Writer
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here.

Michael Klein Staff Writer
Latest Videos:
Also on
letter icon Newsletter