Brooklyn’s loss is Black Rock’s gain.
“Top Chef” contestant Chris Scott, who was in the show’s final four last season, is opening Birdman Juke Joint in the Bridgeport neighborhood by late winter or early spring. Renovations have already begun in the former Naughty Water Whiskey Bar and Grille.
The Pennsylvania Dutch-country native, who closed his Brooklyn restaurant in December, is offering soul food with a Philly twist. In January he tested the Connecticut market with a West Hartford popup restaurant, which quickly sold out.
With his wife and business partner, Eugenie Woo, Scott will serve smoked and fried chicken, as well as classic sides, based on the cuisine of the American south. He has said that his food won’t be of the “gentrified” version of soul food, which got us asking questions.
Q. Tell us what you mean by “real” soul food, and why it’s going to be popular in Black Rock.
C.S.: What I mean by real soul food is this: you’ll see many soul food restaurants all over the place that all serve the “greatest hits,” fried chicken, ribs, biscuits and red velvet anything. Although those are considered soul foods, they all fall under a category called “celebration foods.” These were items that were served mainly on Sundays or when a celebration took place such as a wedding or a graduation. Back in the day, folks were too poor to afford butter and sugar every day of the week, and we certainly didn’t color our food red just for fun.
Real soul food is based on southern agriculture and leans towards the rice culture. Various grains were also at the forefront. A common dish back in the day would consist of a hearty vegetable stew, maybe seasoned with a chicken back, a few beans thrown in and all of this would be served in a bowl over cornbread. At Birdman I won’t go that rustic, but I will certainly be showcasing the healthier options that after all is the true base of southern food.
Q. What did you learn from your popup at the Cook and the Bear in West Hartford?
C.S.: What I’ve learned at the popup in Hartford, as well as our time at the No Kid Hungry event in Hartford, and a popup that we did back in Simsbury, is that I really enjoy Connecticut. The people are so gracious and they certainly love food. I have received nothing but kind words and positive emails ever since I began cooking in the Nutmeg State. I’m looking forward to being a big part of my Bridgeport community, more than just a restauranteur, but someone who gets involved in farmers markets, music venues and kid-related events.
Q. You have a long history in Philadelphia and the Dutch Country. Is any Philly/Amish influence going to be evident at Birdman?
C.S.: There will certainly be some pieces on the menu that speak to my Pennsylvania Dutch background. I’ll also be showing off some of the family recipes that I used to do over in Brooklyn, such as the nationally acclaimed Brown Sugar Buttermilk BiscuitsRead Full Article
Q. Your new restaurant’s Instagram page, which had almost 2,000 followers last time I checked, mentioned your goal of “telling the story of the farmer during the antebellum era.” Can you explain?
C.S.: The Birdman is that chicken farmer. At Birdman we share the richness of history and the abundance of flavor that surround authentic southern cuisine. We’re telling the cultural story of resilience and triumph through the humble bird.
Q. Are you still developing the menu? What do you think will be the most popular item?
C.S.: I’m certain that fried chicken will be the focus and the big seller.
Birdman Juke Joint will open soon at 2931 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. Follow on Instagram @birdmanjukejoint.
Lee Steele is editor of Sunday Arts & Style. firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @leesteele