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Chef Greg Headen, head chef at SOUTH, has put in the timedeveloping his craft. Taste anything that comes out of the North Philly jazz kitchen and you’ll know what we mean. | Image: Reuben Harley

What’s good, Philly Weekly readers!

You’ll be seeing a lot more from your boy within these pages as I’m doing this new thing with PW we’re calling “Grubbin.” This column will take a deep look at the chefs, restaurants and eateries across pockets of the city that’s doing their thing and deserve some love.

We appreciate you James Beard award winners and top Zagat rated restaurants that have made Philly’s food scene on point but frankly, this ain’t about y’all. This is about the ones doing it in their own way, creating tastes that may not receive awards, but stay content with all the love the hood shows to their establishment – day in and day out.

Big Rube headshot

Reuben Harley | @ChefBigRube

My first subject to kick this piece off has actually won a notable award and is poised for even bigger things. Chef Greg Headen is the recent winner of the Food Network’s Chopped brunch challenge. He’s also the soul food mastermind as head chef at SOUTH Jazz Kitchen, the southern soul jazz restaurant along North Broad Street.

The beginnings of Greg’s meteoric rise started in 2011, working the station at the Hard Rock Cafe. In addition to working at the Hard Rock, Greg, a pretty tight rapper, is known on the local performer circuit hoping to parlay his musical talents into financing his own restaurant.  

His passion has always come from buying local. Greg tells me that one of his favorite things to do is hit up Reading Terminal Market for fresh meats and produce to cook on his own, just to sharpen his skills. Within a year at Hard Rock, he became a sous chef. It was a good gig, one that he enjoyed while always wanting to branch out. He never thought his resume matched his skills, so he went back to school. He attended the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, all while working a full-time job. My man has always been putting his thing down and whenever I saw him, he’d be whisking through the streets of Center City.

Always on the move. Always focused.

This 39-year-old West Philly native has put in the time. He’s the last to be trained by famed chef and restaurateur George Perrier and spent two years soaking up as much knowledge as he could working for various Philly eateries rated on the Michelin Guide. It was while plying his trade for a pair of Stephen Starr restaurants in Jones and Dandelion that the Food Network came calling.

The network actually found him through his series of Facebook Live tutorials, where he’d break down how to cook a whole salmon and more. In Philly, he paired with two other Black chefs to create a popup event called “Cooking for the Culture,” focused on presenting just how much America’s cuisine has a historic Black infusion. These events sold out quick, showing how much foods like cornbread, collard greens and more have a home in all facets of food.

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In addition to his skills in the kitchen, Greg Headen is known as a talented rapper and musician. | Image: Reuben Harley

Following a number of successful events at South and having mutual respect for Robert and Benjamin Bynum, owners of South, he went from his start there as the sous chef in 2018 to the classically French-trained current head chef putting a twist on Southern cuisine. His twist, or what Greg would tell me is “Elevated Southern Cuisine,” features everything from a twist on braised brussels sprouts to what he has dubbed “Buttermilk Fried Chicken.”

A chicken aficionado myself (I invite all of you if you haven’t already to check out Big Rube’s Fried Chicken), I’m doing my pop-ups all over the city, so follow ya boy on social media to find out where I’ll be.

But back to Greg.

So I see Buttermilk Fried Chicken on the menu and asked him, why?

In agreement, he explained the reason was even before he arrived at South. It’s how the fried chicken was prepared on the menu. It was South’s recipe, and people kept asking for it. However, he personally said that he was initially taken aback a bit himself because Black folks don’t fry chicken in buttermilk. However, this is one of those “don’t knock it til you try it” type thangs, so you have to go see for yourself.

I know I’m going to again, ASAP.

Each week, Big Rube will put his spin on all things food, fashion and lifestyle for PW. As a Philadelphian who’s been immersed in all three, you don’t have to wait for our next issue. Check out Rube’s Grubbin’ series on philadelphiaweekly.com and follow him on Instagram @ChefBigRube.  

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COCKTAILS TO CONSIDER

Come on, Philly. PBR and a shot of Heaven Hill can’t be the trusted go-to again this summer. Think beyond rum and cokes, gin and tonics (although we have a twist on a frozen G&T) and give your tastebuds a treat you know they’ll thank you for. A few local restaurants offered up some suggestions. If you’re too lazy to make them yourself or not sure where to go to purchase elderflower (we don’t know either, TBH) give some of these spots a try.

Assembly Rooftop Lounge suggests:

The Frose ($14)

  • Rose,
  • Cocchi Rosa,
  • Dry vermouth,
  • Strawberry, and
  • Lemon.
  • Blend over ice.

Frozen Aperol Spritz ($14)

  • Aperol,
  • Elderflower,
  • Orange,
  • Grapefruit,
  • Lemon, and
  • Prosecco.
  • Blend over ice.

Assembly Rooftop Lounge | 1840 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, https://assemblyrooftop.com

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The Twisted Tail suggests:

Champagne Pops ($15)

A glass of your favorite champagne poured over frozen fruit pops.

Ideal flavors:

  • Watermelon,
  • Honeydew,
  • Cantaloupe,
  • Pineapple,
  • Blueberry,
  • Strawberry, and of course,
  • Mixed Berry.

Twisted Tail | 509 S. 2nd St. twistedtail.com

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The Bar at Bluebird Distilling suggests:

Frozen Gin and Tonic ($9)

  • Bluebird Juniperus Gin
  • Grapefruit
  • Lime
  • Botanical syrup, and
  • Peychaud’s Bitters

Bluebird Distilling at the Bourse | 111 S. Independence Mall. theboursephilly.com 

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