Philly’s Pen & Pencil Club launches a new high-minded Chef and Culinary Program.
We used to be able to joke all we wanted about Philadelphia’s late night, private club to journalists’ Pen & Pencil on Latimer Street, and how it forever was a home to high balls and low cuisine.
But, joke no more.
With a new year comes a fresh attitude and feel for the Pen & Pencil beyond hot dogs.
Besides, as dosage MAGAZINE contributor and Pen & Pencil Club boss Bobbi Booker alluded, the club has long prided itself in serving premium Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Its hot dog water has garnered the attention of Pulitzer Prize winners to culinary stars such as Anthony Bourdain, and that before the present day, “seared burgers with a mushroom cap atop and a bottle of A1 steak sauce alongside the cutlery” was de rigueur during late, late nights at the Pen & Pencil. “Thanks to Chavis, the Pen & Pencil is returning to its yummy culinary roots,” said Booker.
That Chavis is Nantambu Chavis, the longtime Philadelphia chef and restaurant consultant who has just come aboard as Pen & Pencil’s Culinary Director in a move to go with the club’s recently installed General Manager, Raphael Tiberino.
While Tiberino will bring his bartending and saloon running skills to the Pen & Pencil (along with a “new artistic aesthetic that embodies the Tiberino brand”) Nantambu Chavis brings a fresh menu featuring Six Spice-Rubbed Chicken, Blackened Salmon, Inkwell Chili and an Inkwell Burger to start.
A Philadelphia native with a family which has been in the area for the better part of two generations, Chavis’ parents gave their son the loveliest of names. “They were very involved in the Pan-Africanism movement and culture of the times and chose a name specifically for me that directly links me to all of our shared ancestry as Black people in America,” says Chef Chavis.
Of his chef-ing skills, Chavis spent time in the kitchens of Stephen Starr (“from cook to captain”) before joining the Schulson Restaurant Group as Catering Operations Manager the DiBruno Bros as an Event Manager/Specialist to be a part of their transition into full-scale catering.
Along with an intimate knowledge of Philly’s restaurant, bar (yes, he bartended) and catering scene, Chavis knew Raphael Tiberino in high school and have been friends for over 40 years.
“That faith that you sense in our friendship is strong and true,” says Chavis in relation to my question of kindship. “Our friendship has ever blossomed but of equal importance is the affinity and professional admiration we have also developed. That we have come full circle to now work together, helping to steward the Pen & Pencil forward resonates quite deeply with me.”
With that, what Chavis brings to Pen & Pencil is all about flavor.
“From my days as a bartender to perfecting my spice rubs and sauces for BBQ I am a big proponent of achieving balance, along with boldness, and a measure of subtlety to coax the best flavors I can from any dish. And, though I like the simplicity of ‘comfort foods’ I try to elevate its basic nature. This concept is reflected in the initial menu for The Inkwell Grill and I embrace the opportunity to showcase and continue growing the standard of food served in our Club. “