PHOTO ABOVE: Award-winning chef Jose Garces announces a brand new cast for his Chefs in Residency program at Volvér. (Photo: Afea Tucker)
Garces’ Chefs-in-Residency program has returned to support emerging chefs while celebrating the diversity of cooking styles and cuisines.
The second season of the program began with Chef Ruben “Big Rube” Harley, executive chef of Chef Big Rube’s kitchen at Pitchers Pub on Main Street in Manayunk.
“Following the successful debut season of the Chefs-in-Residency program at Volvér, I am so proud to announce that the second cohort has been selected,” said Garces. “We’re starting this season with Executive Chef Reuben ‘Big Rube’ Harley, whose ‘Black Folks Style Cooking’ has made a huge impact on the region. This, combined with his flair for fashion and design, made him an obvious choice to start this new season.”
The Chefs-in-Residency program debuted September 23 with Harley’s menu additions, opening Volvér’s fall dinner service.
One of the reasons he agreed to be a part of this collaboration is because his relationship with Garces stems from photographing Garces events, Harley said.
It also goes back to when they shared ghost kitchens next to each other in West Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood, he added.
“It’s a chance to expand my audience as much as possible and bring authentic organic culture cuisine to people,” Harley said. “I bring the original cuisine of America – also known as Blackfolk cuisine – to the fore. Most people know it from soul food or southern cooking. I never co-signed these because, like every ethnicity in the world, we call their cuisine by its name, and Southern and Soul are a blank canvas in my humble opinion. Also, my grandma – aka Nan – always said ‘Black Folk Cooking’ and that meant something to me.”
Harley became a household name in Philadelphia starting in the 2000s. He made local company Mitchell and Ness a household name with his stylish retro sports jerseys.
Harley managed to get top celebrities who rocked Mitchell and Ness wearing the sports jerseys in major media outlets including Time Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, NBC Today Show, HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and others.
He was also one of Philadelphia’s best-known street photographers, whose street gazing photos ran in the Philadelphia Daily News from 2011 to 2017.
Harley continued to expand his repertoire in 2013 when he began doing pop-ups at prominent Philadelphia restaurants, from Zavino with his ground turkey lasagna to his signature fried chicken and waffles at Toast, Vespers and St. Benjamin’s Tap Room and more.
Harley also won competitions against experienced chefs. His cooking style reflects the flavors of the southern blacks who nurtured Northeast plantations and lands passed down from his grandmother.
In the last 10 years he has brought new audiences to his culinary offerings which he did in the ’90s selling his groceries to Philly’s hair salons and barbershops for their hungry customers who wore the throwback jerseys before making them part of his brand made.
Residency season will feature Chef Chance Anies of Tabachoy, Chef Juan Lopez of On Point Bistro, Executive Chef Tonii Hicks Private Chef and James Beard Fellow 2022, Chefs Ryan Elmore and Kaitlin Wines of Mom-Moms Kitchen, Owner Sally Song of Dim Sum Garden continued and a final cook to be announced for the season finale.
Through a special fundraising program in partnership with the Garces Foundation, each chef in residency has the opportunity to raise money to support their work at their current restaurant or use it to begin their next culinary journey.
“We applaud Executive Chef Jose Garces and look forward to the acclaimed Chef-in-Residency program continuing to thrive as it enters its second year,” said Matías Tarnopolsky, President and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. “A new one Group of local culinary talents are brought into the public eye as they hone their skills and share their cuisine with visitors to the Avenue of the Arts.”
The Chef at Garces in Residency will be showcasing his premium dishes on the Volvér menu for six to eight weeks, along with Chef Garces’ brand new menu of Portuguese-inspired dishes.
“We are excited to launch our new menu at Volver this season,” said Garces. “The menu features Portuguese-inspired dishes that exemplify the bold and beautiful colors of the food. In developing this menu we explored the beautiful cuisine of Portugal and neighboring European and Mediterranean influences.”
Garces’ new Portuguese-inspired dishes include fried eggs, short rib skewers, shrimp pockets, grilled sea bass, spiced roast chicken, coffee rubbed sirloin, duck rice with pepperoni, port wine cream, arroz doce and poached meringue.
For his charity, Harley Anderson will support Monarchs, a sports-based youth development organization based in South Philadelphia. Monarch’s programs have provided athletic and educational opportunities to thousands of underserved youth in Philadelphia.