Eli Kulp, The Soft Bigotry Of Your Low Expectations Is Showing

20140123-133802.jpgBefore we say anything else, let us say this: Since he took over the kitchen at Philly’s venerable Fork in the fall of 2012, chef Eli Kulp has quickly emerged as easily one of the best chefs currently working in the city. Food fanboy hyperbole comes cheap these days, but his meals there really are truly a revelation, and his new offshoot of Fork, High Street on Market, is certainly no slouch, either. If it wasn’t before, Fork is now an essential Philly meal. Kulp’s chops are impeccable, and in a time where so much of this city’s culinary “talent” are actually just people who want to be on television (can we please go back to that previous time where this was not the case?), he is a very good reminder that food glory can come in other, more satisfying ways.

But the thing is, Philadelphia, he may not actually like you. In this classically dickish NYC-looking-down-on-Philly piece in GrubStreet this week, much is made of the fact that Philly is 90 plebeian miles from New York, and woe betide the poor culinary-evangelical missionary who must make this trip. Serpico’s Peter Serpico is singled out, and so too is Kulp. The piece is pretty much as promised, but in the last two paragraphs, Kulp tips a pretty ugly hand. Exhibit A:

“For any new restaurant in Philly, Kulp says the trick is creating “something that isn’t going to intimidate people or make them feel like they’re risking their money because it’s so out of touch with what they might anticipate.”

You know, it’s kind of difficult to find a way to call Philadelphians stupid, cheap and unadventurous in one sentence without actually just saying that, but there you have it. We will not dignify this with a breakdown of how fundamentally wrong Kulp’s assertion here is, except to say that we walk these streets every day, finding delight that goes completely contrary to this worldview. Meanwhile, for his next trick (and closing statement of the piece), Kulp will make quite sure you know that he knows where the door is:

But he says there’s still a bigger mental divide between New York and Philadelphia than there is an actual geographical divide: “People in New York just don’t go to Philadelphia,” he says. “But if it didn’t work out down here, I figure I’d take the hour-and-fifteen-minute train ride. Once I realized how close Philadelphia is, it’s not like you can never go back.”

Well, Eli, we suppose that’s true.

  • Allan Smithee

    The strangest thing about the Grub Street article was noted in the comments section. Is that really a cockroach on top of the squid ink/whitefish plate?

  • thegreengrass

    Never heard of him. Now all I know is he’s a prick.

  • hwkstlln

    Eli – I’m so sorry us Philly knuckle draggers aren’t as sophisticated as yous new yorkers to spend $200 on a $100 meal. Next time I’ll be sure to invite my New York friends to join me at Fork, you can charge them double.