An Interview With Philly Girl & Top Chef All Star Jen Carroll

Jen Carroll 165x150Between donating her time to charity events, cooking at private parties, and sourcing potential new restaurant locations, Top Chef alum Jennifer Carroll has been keeping herself busy. Yelp Philly's Michelle C was lucky enough to sit down with this former All Star at Old City's Cafe Olé, where she dishes on where she likes to booze, how she takes her cheesesteaks, and what's in store next.

Michelle C: We hear you like a good drink every once in a while. Which bars do you like to throw down in after a long day?

Jen C: I love my drinks, I like all my cocktails and I’m loving the whole mixology thing – Farmers’ Cabinet, Franklin MortgageTime is always a good time because you have the three different areas. I like Race Street Cafe because they have a great beer selection. It’s dark and cozy and they have a wood-burning fireplace, so in the winter when it’s freezing it’s nice and cozy.

MC: Mike Isabella’s coming to town and he only has a few hours to grab a cheesesteak – where are you sending him?

JC: (Laughs.) Mike Isabella is pretty much an any type of sandwich kind of guy. He lived in Philly for a long time… so he would probably be telling me where he wants to go, but my first choices would be Tony Luke’s and Campo's.

MC: Do you take yours with whiz?

JC: I do American cheese, wit.

MC: If a man wanted to win you over on a first date, where should he take you?

JC: My favorite restaurant in the city is Zahav, so it would be an instant win for him to take me there because I’ll be happy whether it’s a good time or not with him. Zahav and a walk down to Old City to some of the galleries would be nice. Also, if the person has a nice big yacht, going out on the water would be really nice!

MC: Got any favorite one-size-fits-all local shops to buy a gift for a chef, a mom, a friend or a pet?

JC: My go-to spot for clothes and for all types of girls is SA VA. They are one of my favorite-favorites. Smak Parlour has a lot of really cool things.

MC: What are the best places for eats in your neighborhood?

JC: Since I live in Old City right now, I come to Cafe Olé all the time. Their house special, the shakshuka, is actually what I’m eating right now and it is unbelievable. It’s a ton of spices and peppers and tomato sauce and lightly poached eggs – it’s awesome! And Fork. Fork is one of my favorites and Fork: etc. is great because if you wake up late, you can get breakfast all day.

MC: Where is your favorite place for pizza?

JC: I love Tower Pizza because I can get it at any time of the day. For specialty pizzas, you can’t beat Osteria. Jeff does an amazing, amazing job. The Lombardo with the egg – it’s craveable!

MC: What’s your idea of the perfect girls’ night out?

JC: A perfect girls night out would be sitting at home, watching a romantic comedy with some champagne and wine and just gossiping and catching up with all of my friends – no interruptions by any guys!

MC: If you were to plan a girls’ night out at a restaurant, where do you think you’d go?

JC: Bibou, Rouge. We could keep it totally all-girls and go to Barbuzzo and get Marcie and Val involved. 

MC: You’ve recently left Eric Ripert’s 10 Arts. What’s next, and do you plan to stay in Philly?

JC: I am absolutely, definitely staying in Philadelphia. What’s next for me – I am looking all over for locations right now, so once we find a location we can start rolling. In the interim I’m doing catering, consulting, private parties and that type of stuff – so if someone wants to hire me to come cook for them, I’d be more than happy to!