Chefs to Watch will introduce our new class for 2016 over the next few weeks. Today we have a Q&A with Chef Phillip Mariano, formerly of Josephine Estelle and Domenica, now set to open his own concept in early 2017. On October 20, 2016, we will host a dinner to showcase the talents and achievements of our 2016 Chefs to Watch in the New Orleans French Quarter at Marche´. Tickets to the dinner can be purchased online here.Chefs to Watch: Phil, so good to talk to you. Tell us about your new concept.
Phillip Mariano: I’m working with some friends and partners to hopefully get a new space ready by the first of the year. I can’t really talk about it because leases aren’t signed and agreements aren’t finished, but I can say it’s an exciting new concept somewhere in greater uptown New Orleans.
I left Josephine Estelle to move on and do something on my own. I want to be able to focus on what I want to cook. My first job was at 15 at Port of Call in New Orleans, and I’ve been doing this ever since.
CTW: Your family has a long history in the restaurant business, right?
PM: Yes, my mom owned a health food restaurant in Lee’s Circle called “Back to the Garden,” when I was born in the early 80’s. It was a health food restaurant where one of the hotel’s is now located. She was there for a while, then worked for the Besh Group for a while, worked at the Windsor Court, the Flamingo Casino. Just everywhere.
My dad bartended at Port of Call in the late 70’s. It’s where my parents met. When I was born he became a full-time photographer and advertising agency owner to make more money. Now he does mainly fine art work, traveling the country in a Winnebago taking pictures.
CTW: You were doing a pop-up at Pal’s Lounge for a while, what was that all about?
PM: It was a fun barbecue pop-up called Javelina. Our menu was broken down by “food,” and “stuff food eats,” meaning vegetables. We held the pop-up every week at Pal’s Lounge to have fun and enjoy our friends in the neighborhood. I’ve got two smokers in my back yard, and we’d run them for two full days before the pop-up. I did a lot of staying up all night drinking beer. You need to make sure the temperature doesn’t spike or drop, but it’s tough to stay up all night without some beverages.
I lived in San Antonio for a few years, and I ate all over the Hill Country for barbecue. I just love slow-smoked meats.
CTW: What was your favorite dish from Javelina?
PM: It was our smoked brisket covered in sloppy joe sauce. We’d douse the brisket in the sauce before we finish it on the smoker, then add more sauce before serving. I finished the dish with fried shallots and piled it all high on Texas toast.
CTW: Had you done much barbecue cooking in a restaurant setting before Javelina?
PM: We had a smoker at Pizza Domenica where we made our wings and other smoked dishes, but mostly my experience with barbecue comes from Hogs for the Cause. I’m on the Porquette team with Michael Stoltzfus, Todd Pulsinelli, Kristen Essig, and some other restaurant folks. It’s a ton of fun for us all to get together and make barbecue.
CTW: How High Has Your Team Placed at Hogs?
PM: We placed seventh in whole hog last year, which is awesome considering there are 100’s of teams. We cook in a cinder block pit with a straight wood fire. It’s very old-school.
CTW: What is your dish for the Chefs to Watch Dinner
PM: I’m cooking brisket and collard green doppio ravioli in potlikker. Basically, it’s barbecue brisket and greens in a two-sided ravioli. It’s pretty cool, but hard to make. You roll a sheet of pasta, pipe out the two fillings, then roll out a sheet on top. You use your fingers to make the split, and then seal the two sides individually.
No one has ever complained about the combination of smoked meats and collard greens.