Interview: Marc Plessis / Chef de Cuisine / XIX
22: You were born in France, so perhaps that explains the interest in becoming a chef. Having said that, we do understand that not all French people cook for a living.
MP: I actually came to America at age eleven, and really grew-up in Kentucky. I was raised on Southern cooking and it remains an influence in what I do today. I graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and I worked in kitchens in Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami.
22: You came to Philadelphia from the Vix Restaurant in the Victor Hotel and while there are some similarities in Vix and XIX, there had to be somewhat of a cultural shock arriving in the more conservative atmosphere of a Philadelphia.
MP: Vix is located in the heart of South Beach and the differences are somewhat dramatic. South Beach is more of a tourist destination and I would describe the overall atmosphere as wild and a bit crazy.
22: We're guessing that you don't find Philadelphia "wild and a bit crazy".
MP: I find the people in Philadelphia to be extremely passionate about so many things, including sports, restaurants, and everything else. They are well educated when it comes to wine and food and they care about things like ingredients and where things come from. It's an audience with high expectations and when it comes to food, these are people who know what it's all about.
22: They say that the dining public in Philadelphia won't support a restaurant on the second floor, and that they are wary of restaurants located in hotels. XIX is on the 19th floor and of course, it is located in a hotel.
MP: I believe the stigma of hotel restaurants is a thing of the past. Actually, some of the best restaurants in the City are located in hotels, so that doesn't worry me. The 19th floor could be an issue but the views are staggering, and you only have to travel 19 floors to experience an ambiance second to none. It's definitely worth the short trip.
22: With a visit to your web site, the first thing you see is that stunning pearl necklace chandelier and it is true that actually visiting the restaurant is infinitely more dramatic than the photograph.
MP: The only downside to the chandelier photo is that I donít want people to conclude that XIX is stuffy and not happening. You don't need a tie and jacket to dine here and we go out of our way to keep things casual and fun. This place has class; great food; it's romantic, and it's a spot that has Philadelphia written all over it. It's anything but stuffy.
22: As a hotel restaurant, it's understandable that you also have a number of guests from out of town. Has the local market been receptive to the 19th floor and whatís going on at XIX?
MP: Restaurants count on the visitor market, but they really count on the local community for support. Everything we do in this restaurant is with the local community in mind. XIX is a local Philadelphia restaurant and for everyone who walks through our doors, it's a total Philadelphia experience. Thankfully, they are walking through our doors and they keep coming back which is the best thing of all.
22: It would appear as though the media has been very kind to you. We see over and over again that a Marc Plessis is a rising young chef and when Craig LaBan of the Inquirer writes about you with such high praise, one would have to call this a good thing.
MP: It is a good thing and I have been fortunate in this regard. Of course, the people I really hope to please are the guests at XIX.
22: You refer to your restaurant as seafood centric with a menu of new American dishes which obviously means that seafood is the emphasis at XIX.
MP: I enjoy seafood and we take it very seriously. Our gigantic raw bar has been a tremendous house favorite and I think our seafood centric thinking has given a certain identity to our restaurant. We support our local farmers and we tend to purchase most of our seafood from the East Coast. I must tell you that we are more than just seafood, and one of our most popular entrees has become our bone-in ribeye steaks, and we have received national media attention for this dish.
22: So while Philadelphia is many miles from a South Beach, it would appear that you have made the adjustment and hopefully, you will choose to be around for awhile.
MP: I happen to really enjoy this area, and like so many others, I live in Center City, and one of the great benefits is walking to and from the restaurant. Philadelphia has become a big-time restaurant town, and it's fun and important to be a part of it.
XIX Park Hyatt at the Bellevue
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