big rube

Big Rube, Chef in Residence

Chef Big Rube brings a big taste to Volver at Kimmel Cultural Campus.

On a rainy Sunday around dusk at Jose Garces’ Kimmel Cultural Campus decadent dining space Volver, I hung out with the culinary coziness of Chef, entrepreneur and raconteur Big Rube doing his homespun menu as the introduction to Garces’ Chef-in-Residence program. Along with Rube’s funky but chic cuisine on that grey Sunday night, Garces too revealed his own new menu for Volver’s fall and winter seasons, this time in perfect harmony with the Big man’s meal.

Self-titling his style as “elevated flavas of blackfolkstylecooking,” Big Rube can usually be found doing his hauteur-heightened bar food thing in his kitchen at Pitchers Pub in Manayunk. Volver, however, gives Rube the opportunity to dish out the entrees he shakes, bakes and makes for private chef gigs. “The vibe for this meal is Black culture, like when you come over to someone’s crib for holidays, graduations or funerals,” said Rube before my meal. “This cuisine we’re serving… I’m just doing it at an uber organic level flavor profile, the one that I demand from myself, aka… only da best.”

Rube wasn’t kidding.

big rube

Starting with a double punch of something spicy from Garces (Fried Deviled Eggs “Ovos Verdes” with melt-in-your-mouth pork chorizo, smoked tomato aioli and preserved tuna) and something sweet from Big Rube (the “Biscuits N’ Berries” with a smear of strawberry butter and oversized light and fluffy buttermilk biscuits) was a lovely and luscious opening salvo. And remember, when it comes to buttermilk, as Big Rube says “black folks fried chicken doesn’t have ‘buttermilk’. Never, ever.”

big rube
Biscuits N’ Berries

Which reminds me: Big Rube’s Famous Fried Chicken with braised greens, baked macaroni with pimento cheese. See, there’s a reason BR’s bird is famous. I can’t say how long it is he brines his chicken or every contour of its skin, but everything about this was both a familiar muscle memory as to how South West Philly moms at 58th Street with good taste (like my own Italian mother) and Chefs such as Big Rube – West Philly born and raised at 56th Spruce Street, “watching my grandma aka Nan make me turtle pancakes, fried chicken and cornbread” – do things. And something new, zesty and amazing.

big rube
Big Rube’s Famous Fried Chicken

Not to be outdone, Chef Garces’ coffee-rubbed dry-aged sirloin with brandy crème, nibbles of serrano ham, bacon and mushroom was dreamy stuff, just tender and ever-so-slightly toasty (that coffee) with just the perfect hints of crunchy protein.

When I get the chance to get back to the Garces and Big Rube pairing, I would try the former’s Duck with Pepperoni joint (because, c’mon, that just sounds amazing) and the latter’s Battered Whitefish with pickled remoulade and his other famous dish, Rube’s baked meatloaf with braised cabbage because everything tastes better braised.

Several cocktails – a damn fine Perfect Manhattan, made expertly – and an evening’s sweet ender with Rube’s Meyer Lemon butter cream cake with plump seasonal berries and a blueberry smear: the grey day suddenly got sunny and bright, despite the fact that I left Volver late enough to miss The House of Dragons.

Damn fine.

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