Ten years ago, at age 31, this Rumson, NJ, native, a Wharton MBA, opted out of a career in health care consulting to open her restaurant. She’s guided it through three chefs, each having a much-different style, without skipping a beat. Three years ago, she opened 1,000-sq.ft. gourmet takeout spot Fork:etc. next door to the original. Her new book, Folklore (Temple University Press; $35) relates the history and recipes that have caused publications like Philadelphia Weekly to conclude that “Fork is a local treasure.”
How’s the book venture going?
The writing was done in bits and pieces on vacations or in free moments. That part was fun.
Once you’re done with the writing, a book becomes all about making it succeed, like a restaurant. It’s more work than fun.
You must have been busy when the book came out in October.
I was. The publisher drives the process. And it happened to be a tough month at the restaurant— we had some operational issues, we were a little shorthanded, we did some training and we put on a few big events.
Fork had a lot going on.
We did, but I’d have to break away to do book tour events— signings, appearances, classes, TV demos. I wasn’t really used to doing those things.
We’re betting you’ve become a pro at book promotion now.
I hope so; it’s the holiday shopping season.
Does your schedule allow you time to cook here at home?
Not too much. I still keep quite a few staples around—things that don’t go bad quickly.
Walk us through a typical day.
I get to work at 9:30 a.m. and have coffee there. It tastes better when somebody makes it for you.
Do you have a long commute?
No. I live just eight blocks away from Fork here in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. I ride my bike if the weather’s OK.
Tell us about your ride.
It’s a three-speed Raleigh. My father gave it to me when I was 13. It’s great for errands, too.
How does your day play out from there?
I spend 10 hours more at Fork. I’ll work the floor until 8 or 9 p.m., then sit down and eat a meal. If I stayed until the end every night, I’d be completely exhausted.
Do you eat in the dining room?
Sometimes. I like to order off the menu to see what’s happening. Other days, I’ll have Fork’s family meal.
Sort of a quality control check.
Yes, but I’m more involved than that. I oversee menu development and purchasing, too. I’m just like a chef/owner who has a chef de cuisine in the kitchen.
What are your favorite meals?
I try to take care of myself from the nutritional standpoint, but I crave rich, comfort-type food when I work long hours. Let’s say I eat as healthfully as possible.
Does Fork:etc. take up much of your day?
I work it in. It’s a different type of business. At the restaurant, we make food to order. At Fork: etc., we make it ahead and stock the shelves.
We hope you don’t burn out on the book tour this month.
Me, too. I try to keep a focus on having a work life/personal life balance seven days a week. Luckily, we’re at a good place with the restaurant now.
Photograph by John Falls