Experiments in Flavor: Andrew Kochan, Marigold Kitchen
At the tender age of 27, Andrew Kochan has found himself the chef-owner at one of Philadelphia’s most lauded restaurants, Marigold Kitchen. Together with his co-chef and partner Tim Lanza, Kochan cooks some of the most innovative food in the city.
The chef, a recent culinary school grad, draws inspiration from the science of molecular gastronomy and combines it with the best ingredients and traditional techniques. “It’s not like we’re serving you a frothy puff of pure flavor and that’s a course. We know this is Philadelphia and people want to eat,” says Kochan, who cooked for several months at Marigold Kitchen under its previous chef-owner, Rob Halpern.
While it’s only been six months since he took the reins, Kochan already has a big vision for the restaurant’s future. He wants to make the place his own. The playful, tasting-menu-only format for which the restaurant has become known will stay in place, though it’s now limited to 14 courses, down from the former 16-plus-course extravaganza. The Southeast Asian flavors to which Kochan is especially drawn are subtly shaping the flavor profile of his dishes.
“I recently did a Parisian gnocchi with Thai chilies, passion fruit and orchid petals,” says Kochan. It’s an example of his outside-the-box thinking and creative approach to food. And while his dishes tend toward the experimental, they aren’t overwrought. “You don’t need 17 things on a plate for a dish to be good,” he says.
While he does draw inspiration from across the globe, local food has a place of pride on his menu. Mushrooms—particularly the flawless maitakes a forager brings Kochan in a backpack—are frequently showcased on Marigold menus. This will be his first growing season as chef-owner, and he already has plans to work with foragers who will bring him ramps, fiddleheads, morels and chanterelles from as nearby as the Wissahickon.
He also has his eye on local lamb, and is in talks to have a heritage breed of French chickens specially raised for his upcoming seasonal menu. “We’ll call it ‘spring chicken’ and serve it with spring onions, favas and turnips,” says the chef.
Unlike many chefs, he doesn’t obsess over each ingredient’s provenance. Some of his favorite ingredients are, after all, imported, and many aren’t even remotely available in Pennsylvania. But in pursuit of spectacular food, he does place a premium on local items. “The freshness is key, especially in the spring. Local is part of putting out the best food you can put out. Nobody wants old fava beans. We don’t do peas in winter. That’s a waste of everybody’s time.”
Just don’t expect the same old market-driven plates that have become cliché. Kochan reinterprets the classic tomato-and-mozzarella salad by turning the tomatoes into an intensely flavored gel, shot through the center with freshly made cheese. The usual basil is served as an herbaceous soda alongside. “We just want to keep pushing the envelope,” he says.
501 S. 45th St., 215.222.3699