Spotlight on the Workers Behind Center City District Restaurant Week

Center City District (CCD) Restaurant Week celebrated its twentieth anniversary this past September. More than 115 restaurants welcomed diners from across the region with unique and diverse menus, which helped to highlight the extraordinary culinary talent found only in Center City Philadelphia. Chefs and restaurateurs worked tirelessly throughout the promotion to provide guests with an unforgettable experience, but they did not do it alone. Front and back of house workers are a vital component to the ongoing success of CCD Restaurant Week. Without their enduring support and dedication to the business, CCD Restaurant Week wouldn’t be sustainable and wouldn’t have lasted these past twenty years.

The Dedication of Restaurant Staff

As noted in CCD’s 2023 State of Center City Philadelphia report, 28% of all retail storefronts in Center City are home to restaurants. And this year alone, Philadelphia’s restaurant scene proved itself on the national stage, earning acclaim and awards from Bon Appetit, the James Beard Foundation, and many more. Without the teams working behind the scenes, this praise wouldn’t be possible. 

In an interview with David Concepcion, the Chef de Cuisine at Prohibition Taproom and graduate from the Community College of Philadelphia’s Culinary Arts program, he notes his experience as an intern at Midtown Village staple Barbuzzo and various other restaurants. Aside from the diversity of options for guests, he emphasized the benefits for exploration for chefs: 

“From the restaurant’s standpoint, the chefs are able to explore and provide a culinary experience that differs from their regular menu with the addition of their Restaurant Week menu at a reasonable price for all to enjoy.”

For this year’s CCD Restaurant Week milestone, the chefs and restaurateurs responsible for the program’s success were celebrated in promotional efforts, including Chef Montana Houston of Restaurant Aleksandar in  Rittenhouse Row and Chef Marcie Turney of Safran Turney Hospitality, whose signature spots like the aforementioned Barbuzzo and Bud & Marilyn’s have participated in CCD Restaurant Week for several years. 

And to expand those efforts, thanks to  Community College of Philadelphia, CCD Restaurant Week was able to also celebrate restaurant staff.  

Celebrating Restaurant Staff

After being nominated by their managers, five staff members from restaurants across Center City were awarded a $500 “tip” to recognize their hard work. 

Below, read more about the five winners:

Anita, Opening Bartender/Barista at Alice Pizza & Restaurant, 235 S. 15th Street 

Why was she nominated?
Anita is an integral part of Alice Pizza. She opened the restaurant over 5 years ago. Starting from behind the counter serving pizza, then learning to become one of the best barista/bartenders in the city. She opens Alice 5 days a week and will fill in when needed in an emergency. She is that employee that is the heart of a place; without her, there might not be an Alice. 

What is your favorite thing about Center City?
One of [my] favorite things [about] Center City is definitely the restaurants and their diversity, different cuisines and cultures, and the access to visit them is easy.

What is your favorite part of working in a restaurant?
Every day working in restaurants is different and this is my favorite part of it and of course meeting new people and being able to make them happy and have great experiences as they choose our place to spend their time.

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Brendan, Pastry Cook at The Dandelion, 124 S. 18th Street

Why was he nominated?
Brendan is a warrior and will jump in wherever needed.  He is helpful and friendly with all his co-workers.  He has helped bail us out of many jams in addition to his stellar daily performance and dedication.

What is your favorite thing about Center City?
The thing that I like most about Center City is that it is very approachable. I grew up in a small town in Ohio, so one of the things that really helped me get used to the city was going for walks through Center City and doing some window shopping. I still will routinely go for long aimless walks through Center City whenever I want to destress.

What is your favorite part of working in a restaurant?

The thing that I enjoy the most about working in a restaurant is that I can immediately see the results of my work. I love that [with] every task I am able to see the finished product. When I talk to my friends that have jobs outside of the restaurant industry, one of their complaints is that they are working on these long multi-year projects where they don't really get to see the value of their contribution. Whereas, I am directly connected to the work that I accomplish and can see the results immediately.


Valentina, Hostess at Devon Seafood Grill, 225 S. 18th Street

Why was she nominated?
She worked just about every day during Restaurant Week and was our lead host for dinner during the busiest of nights. It’s not easy managing the door and she does a great job and still maintains a positive attitude.

What is your favorite thing about Center City?
Working in the city brings me so much energy, I am a social person who thrives around other people. So being able to engage with others helps me to feel like maybe we are all really the same.

What is your favorite part of working in a restaurant?
My favorite part of working in a restaurant is not only the food but as a Hostess, I am the first person people see when they walk through our doors, and I essentially paint a scene for them for how their experience will be in our restaurant. So I always strive for a welcoming appearance no matter who walks through our doors, because food is an inclusive experience that everyone should be welcomed to.

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Daquane, Line Cook at Harper’s Garden, 31 S. 18th Street

Why was he nominated?
Daquane has been at Harper’s Garden for 5 years and has grown so much and taken on more responsibilities and always goes the extra mile to help others out.

What is your favorite thing about Center City?
It's such a diverse section of Philadelphia. There are so many people around from various cultures. Also, everything is around Center City... you don't have to travel too far to anything when center city is your home base.

What is your favorite part of working in a restaurant?
Working in a restaurant really opens up your taste buds because you cook with and try things you wouldn't normally buy for yourself. Also, restaurants bring people from different backgrounds together. It's nice to work with and get to know people you wouldn't have met otherwise.

Gustavo, Server at D’Angelo’s Ristorante Italiano, 256 S. 20th Street

Why was he nominated?
Gustavo has been loyal and hard working for many years. He delivered takeout orders to our regulars when we were closed during COVID. He has always been here, for all of us and our customers!

What is your favorite thing about Center City?
My favorite thing about Center City is [that] it is convenient to get around and explore our great city.

What is your favorite part of working in a restaurant?
Getting to meet new people is one of my favorite things about working in the restaurant industry.

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Support These Restaurants Year Round

We thank our friends at the Community College of Philadelphia for their support of this program, and for their efforts to support the hospitality industry through their innovative coursework. As noted by Chef Concepcion, his training focused on back of house and front of house exercises, as well: “My training at CCP helped me prepare for the culinary world through hands-on activities such as coming up with menus and participating in preparing and cooking a lunch menu for the College’s staff.”

To keep up with the diverse restaurant scene in Center City, be sure to explore our “Dine” page to see what new and innovative events are happening in the region’s premier dining destination.