“We know that the people close to us grow the best stuff.”
There was a time when declaring your place a “farm-to-table” restaurant was enough to get attention in the media and diners in the door. These days, farm names on your chalkboard menu don’t have the same impact. For one thing, in light of frequent less-than-honest local-food name checking, diners have become skeptical. For another, Philly-area restaurant- goers have come to expect local ingredients wherever possible.
When co-chefs and co-owners Kevin D’Egidio and Mike Griffiths decided to open Helm in Kensington in 2015, they knew they’d look to local farmers, cheesemakers and other purveyors. The chefs were experienced; between them they’d had stints at high-end, well-reviewed restaurants, including Fork, Lacroix at the Rittenhouse and Will BYOB.
“We know that the people close to us grow the best stuff,” says Griffiths. And the best stuff, even more so than the local stuff, is what they were after to make a name for their new restaurant. “It just happens that around here, that happens to be the same stuff.”
“We always start talking about the vegetables, never the protein,” adds Griffiths. For example, local farmer Jack Goldenberg grows an unusual pepper, the aji dulce. “It’s not too spicy. It’s a bit chocolatey, actually.” It inspired the smoked whitefish with greens currently on Helm’s menu.
This time of year, D’Egidio and Griffiths often forage for mushrooms with Jon Adair, sous chef at Helm South (the restaurant’s newer second location). It’s hard to get any more local than that, but they don’t make a big deal about these special ingredients.
“Diners know that we keep as local as possible, but they come in for the full-flavored meals. We’re BYOB and people bring in bottles of wine that are pricier than my mortgage payments. That’s a huge compliment to us and our food,” says Griffiths.
1303 N. 5th St., Philadelphia
100 E. Morris St., Philadelphia