P.J. Clarke's, opening this summer, signs a hometown chef

The Philadelphia branch of the New York bar P.J. Clarke’sannounced two years ago, is finally on track for a summertime opening at the Curtis Center, where it will occupy the ground floor of the landmark building’s Sixth and Walnut Street corner.

(Why the delay? Owner Philip Scotti says he had changed his mind on design plans.)

Meanwhile, the management team is being set into place, and one of the first hires is chef Ned Maddock.

Maddock, 33, is a hometown guy — grew up in Wayne and went to Shipley School, where his mother, Dorothy, works. After majoring in religious studies at the University of Wisconsin, he wound up in Chicago, cooking pizzas at an Uno. A second job, at Goose Island Brewpub, helped cinch his career choice. From there, he staged in Chicago before landing at Hot Chocolate (for three years and where he met his wife, Jill), followed by Girl & the Goat and the now-closed Bedford.

At a crossroads, he and his wife moved to the Philadelphia area. She worked at Blackfish, Vetri, and Teresa’s. He started at Amis before moving to Lo Spiedo, Nineteen at the Hyatt, and Brigantessa,

Maddock was chef de cuisine at Brigantessa, on East Passyunk Avenue, when one night one of his staff called out sick.

“We were jammed,” he said. “I was working a station.” A waiter told him that someone wanted to meet him. He told the waiter he couldn’t get away. The man was persistent. “He just asked for five minutes of my time.”

Maddock approached the table, and Phil Scotti handed him his business card.

“I’d never heard of Clarke’s before,” Maddock says. “It didn’t seem like my kind of restaurant.” That is, a bar-restaurant with few pretensions. “I was pretty happy at Brigantessa. It’s a little Italian place. But I wanted to know more about him. He did a good job selling himself.”

During the interview process, Maddock said, “I didn’t tell Phil, but my parents and I ate at the original Clarke’s” on Third Avenue in Manhattan. “Everything was amazing. I went as classic as I could — the Cadillac burger, oysters — and it was perfect. Done the right way. The service was open and friendly like they knew me but didn’t.”

Maddock said it was important to note that although Clarke’s roots are in New York, “this is not a bunch of New Yorkers coming down and opening a New York restaurant. This is good, honest food and hospitality.”

Scotti himself grew up just outside of Norristown, and the rest of the management team is from the Philadelphia area. Maddock is working with local farms and food businesses, including Primal Supply meats, Green Meadows Farm, and Heritage Farm. ‘We want to use the buying power of a big restaurant for good,” he said.

For now, Maddock is hiring a kitchen team and laying out the menu, which will be a work in progress. “We want to see what the neighborhood needs,” he said, noting that the Bourse’s forthcoming food hall nearby will become a destination, as well. “This is a growing area and we want to be part of it.”