To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Center City District Restaurant Week, we’ll be spending time celebrating the chefs—and some of their favorite recipes—as we get closer to the event.
This week, we’re excited to share some stories and insights from Alex Dorczuk, one of the chefs at Harp & Crown. As one of Schulson Collective’s signature stops, they offer everything from brunch to dinner, happy hour to even bowling, courtesy of their downstairs Elbow Lane. And aside from their stunning meals, you won’t want to miss their Center City District SIPS happy hour, starting this June!
What inspired your journey to become a chef?
My mother wasn't the best cook… her philosophy in the kitchen was lots of garlic and olive oil. When we visited my aunt on holidays, I would watch her cook, no recipes; just her and the ingredients. It is amazing what a loving touch can do. I wanted to be able to cook like that! Replicate that innate touch, the natural feel and love.
From there, we’re talking about practice—cooking breakfast for the family on weekends. Beyond that, I chose a technical high school and joined the culinary team. We ran a small cafe for the teachers during the lunch periods. We all cycled through all the roles, from dishwasher to chef of the day, and oversaw the entire operation. For example, if you worked the grill that day, all the dishes were on you to create and execute. It was a great experience; cooking for fun and feeling the operation really solidified my love for food.
What inspired your approach to cooking?
I can’t say I have a singular approach; I try to grow daily as a cook and a leader. There is always more to learn in this world. I am absolutely in love with Japanese, Korean and food from the Sichuan region of China, so you find a lot of that inspiration sprinkled across the food I prepare.
What has been the proudest moment of your journey as a chef?
I'm not one to really focus on accolades, though I did have a friend from California send me an article about the top steakhouses in the U.S. while I was part of the team at Alpen Rose. We were featured as one of the best in the country which really felt great for the entire team.
Can you tell us about the recipe you shared, including the story behind it, it's inspiration, and why you chose to submit it?
The Tuna Carpaccio really is inspired by my journey through the Schulson Collective. Funny, I was just joking about this with Kareem McCafferty, our Vice President, at the tasting. We’ve watched each other grow over the last few years. I've spent time at Alpen Rose, Double Knot and Harp & Crown; this is sort of a mashup of those restaurants. The tuna carpaccio’s elegant appearance is from my time at Alpen Rose, the taste is inspired by Japanese flavors at Double Knot, and it all ties together at Harp with its new American, globally influenced, approach, making this Tuna Carpaccio an accessible and relatable dish for everyone.
How have you seen Center City evolve since opening?
Well, while I have not been here since the opening of H&C, the rise of food culture in the past 7 years has brought an excitement to traditionally unknown ingredients, which we often feature at Harp & Crown with our global influence. The city is now filled with a multitude of chefs highlighting different cooking, and nationwide Philadelphia’s dining scene receives accolade after accolade. We are grateful for guests coming out to taste!
Even if ingredients are unknown, people are happy to try the new; they are willing to create a memory and/or experience around something they may have zero exposure to. As a chef who finds love in food from all cultures, I am grateful.
Given the culinary diversity of Schulson Collective’s restaurants, what makes Harp & Crown one of the city’s most popular spots?
The menu being globally inspired allows us to guarantee we have a dish that appeals to everyone. I also think there is a significant allure to the atmosphere, with a daily, buzzing happy hour to indulge in some of the city’s best deals as well as a large bar space on the first floor, not to mention the speakeasy downstairs, for all social gatherings – from team dinners to first dates! Our tasting menu, with a few drinks, is a highlight that won't break the bank and leaves you planning your next visit.
We thank our friends at the Schulson Collective, especially Chef Alex Dorczuk, for sharing these stories! To visit Harp & Crown, make a reservation, visit their website, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!
Stay tuned as we continue to share more of these stories as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Center City District Restaurant Week, and check out all of the amazing restaurant options in Center City!