A skilled front-of-the-house veteran, Olexy served as director of restaurant operations for Starr Restaurant Group before opening her own Philadelphia restaurant, Django, in 2001. It was the only BYOB eatery to earn a four-star rating from the Philadelphia Inquirer. At the height of its popularity, Olexy closed Django in 2005 to open a new restaurant called Talula’s Table in bucolic Chester County, PA. It landed on Saveur’s list of America’s Top 100 restaurants. Two years ago she partnered with her old boss, Stephen Starr, to open Talula’s Garden, a seasonal American restaurant, and Talula’s Daily, a food market where one can shop, eat and drink. Talula’s Garden was named a Best New Restaurant by Bon Appetit in 2011.
1. Lemons. Can’t live without them. The peel for bright energy in vinaigrette, the peel and pith in beef braises for complexity, leaves in stock, juice for sweet and savory curds. It decorates, permeates and stands back all at once. Also, I put it in warm water every morning to start my day. It clarifies food and your body.
2. Skeleton knives. I like them thin and firm. They are essential to any cheese shop or cheese service and truly work well on tomatoes, warm croissants and more. Oh, and my oyster knife is pretty critical for me, too!
3. Green tea. I usually drink Two Leaves and a Bud from Basalt, CO. I have a cup an hour when I answer e-mails. I like the warmth and the taste. It makes me have to pee a lot. Then I hydrate with white Rhone wines when I get home. I like the floral savory notes of the Rhone blends. And when I say hydrate, I really mean guzzle.
4. Little flannel shirts. I wear them year round. They show off my farm-iness and my country girl side!
5. Pencil & paper. You need to be able to show your staff on paper simple back-of-the-envelope calculations, such as why money and spending matter; what happens to y when you change x. Things like that. You should be able to do this anywhere, anytime and not over-complicate.