It was a cook-off for the ages at Smallman Galley in the Strip District this past Monday.
And the cooking wasn’t even the hard part.
Smallman Galley, a restaurant incubator that has garnished national media, held the final round for their second cohort this past Monday. Eight finalists competed to be one of four chefs who get a one-year residency at the cities main restaurant incubator.
Ultimately Monday’s event was an extreme job interview in which candidates were questioned about their idea, recipes, influences, style, sourcing, favorite foods and restaurants, personal history and business plan. And, of course, there was a taste-testing portion.
“It was ‘Top Chef’ meets ‘Shark Tank’.”
The panel in charge of judging the contestants consisted of the four inaugural resident chefs along with Bon Appetit web editor Carey Polis, chef Kate Romane of Black Radish Kitchen catering and Brent Young, who is a culinary partner with East Liberty’s Whitfield and a co-owner of Brooklyn butchery The Meat Hook.
The overall mission at Smallman Galley is to give culinary professionals a chance to hone their skills and is a major stepping-stone to owning a restaurant of one’s own. Navy veterans Ben Mantica and Tyler Benson opened the Galley in 2015 with the clear goal of creating a self-sustained business. As a result they pick candidates that not only have a great product, but also with a defined understanding on how to run an efficient kitchen.
“We know what we’re looking for, and everyone today did a great job. It’s going to be hard to choose,” Benson said of the new class, which is expected to be announced on Monday. “Overall, it’s about finding the right team. Like in sports — it doesn’t always hold that a team of MVPs will perform the best. The best all-around team will perform the best,” he said while adding that they’re looking not only for great food but also chefs who are excited to be a part of the Strip and Pittsburgh.”
Over 50 people applied for Smallman’s second cohort this year. Just four will be selected.