Chances are good that if you follow the food scene in Philly, you recognize Jim Coleman’s face — or his voice. In addition to being behind the scenes in popular kitchens, the chef has spent time in front of the camera for “Flavors of Philadelphia,” and at the microphone hosting WHYY’s “A Chef’s Table” for 14 years.
He opened Normandy Farm, a hotel and banquet center in Blue Bell, and now he’s at Liberte Lounge at the Sofitel. Later this month he’ll be whipping up wine-friendly snacks for Liberte’s French Wine Week, highlighting a different region each night from Sept. 23-28.
You hosted a TV show, “Flavors of Philadelphia,” in the late '90s. If you did that show today, how would it differ?
I think it would be better, first of all. I think there’s so much more to do today. We could cover local chefs, maybe go to their restaurants, then bring them into the studio for the cooking segment. There are so many up-and-coming chefs. Places are opening left and right. There are young guys and guys that have been around for a while, so there would be a lot more avenues to go down for the show.
Do all these up-and-coming chefs make you nervous?
I think it’s awesome. It makes you feel good about where it’s all going. It became disconcerting a few years back with the boom of Food Network. People wanted to get into the business for the wrong reasons. They wanted to cook to be on TV. I’d always say, ‘Go to acting school then, not culinary school.’ There were all these myths that you could make money after culinary school. Now I see a bunch of dedicated chefs that are doing it for the right reason: the food. I’d be more worried about these guys if I was 15 years younger.
You’ve worked with celebrities and politicians. Any stories you can share?
When I was working at the Rittenhouse [Hotel], Bruce Willis was around. He had been there to film “The Sixth Sense” and was back to film “Unbreakable,” I think. I got to know him a little from his time there, and he was very approachable. When he came back for the second time he asked me what had opened and asked me to show him around town. Starr had just opened new places, so I remember we went to Buddakan that night. I felt pretty great going around town with Bruce Willis.