Hot Chef: Leo Forneas adds a New York twist to Southern cooking

Leo Forneas thinks the Philly restaurant scene is "fun and casual." Credit: Courtney Owens
Leo Forneas thinks the Philly restaurant scene is “fun and casual.”
Credit: Courtney Owens

Former Sampan chef Leo Forneas left Philadelphia a few years ago to experiment in New York kitchens. Now he’s back, and somewhere you wouldn’t expect to see him: The Twisted Tail in Society Hill, which calls itself a bourbon house and juke joint. Forneas came in, used a determined and guiding hand to revamp the menu, and added his own touch to the Southern cuisine.

When you got to The Twisted Tail, you overhauled the menu. What’s that process like?
We researched the concept, went through the whole menu, and figured out what Southern cooking is all about. I wanted to make it lighter in a sense. I’m not going to change your grandmother’s cornbread, but I want to introduce more salad with local ingredients coming from Jersey farms. You read a lot of articles about chefs who learned their trade in New York, then went back to their hometowns and started cooking lighter versions of those staples. You can do the farm-to-table stuff without losing the essence of Southern cooking.

Anything on the menu that you just had to keep?
The crawfish mac ’n cheese had to stay. I love mac ’n cheese — plus it’s our No. 1-selling item.

You lived in Philadelphia a few years ago and then you went to New York. Notice any changes since coming back?
Oh yeah. There are a lot of younger chefs coming in. They’re going to bring back that culture of new food. When I opened Sampan, all you heard about was [Stephen] Starr and [Jose] Garces really. Now there are smaller chefs coming up, a younger generation, and that’s really cool to see. People can’t afford to open a restaurant in New York, so they come to Philly.

And there’s a huge difference in the industry between New York and Philly, right?
Yes. In New York you have to do the best thing ever all the time. It’s not fun. Philly’s fun and casual. No one’s telling you to wear nice jeans or a suit. And Philly is, like, the proudest.

Now that you’re back in Philly is there anything that you’re making sure you do?
During the summer when I lived here four years ago I used to go to a farm to pick blueberries. I went a few weeks ago and it was awesome. Until it started raining.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Tallest residential building planned for lower Manhattan

A residential tower planned for lower Manhattan will soar 1,356 feet in the air -- just 12 feet shy of 1 World Trade Center. When…

Local

Bronx man commits suicide by decapitation

A Bronx man committed suicide Monday morning in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx by decapitating himself. According to the NYPD, the 51-year-old man…

Local

Top cops enroll in Twitter course at John…

NYPD officers are reportedly getting a lesson on the best way to use 140 characters or less. The New York Post reported Tuesday top officers…

Local

Islamic state issues video of beheading of U.S.…

The Islamic State militant group released a video purporting to show the beheading of U.S. hostage Steven Sotloff, the SITE monitoring service reported on Tuesday.

Arts

Pop culture and prostitutes: New Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at…

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec documented the cult of celebrity and the rise of pop entertainment in his prints, posters and lithographs — now on display at MoMA.

Arts

PHOTO: Extreme artist Eskil Ronningsbakken balances unicycle on…

Extreme artist’ Eskil Ronningsbakken balances on the edge of a cliff face at 4,600 feet – on a unicycle. The Norwegian travels across the globe, balancing over vertiginous ravines, tall…

Music

Hear two previously unreleased Adele songs

Missing some Adele in your life? Two previously unreleased songs from the singer have appeared online.

Music

Lincoln Center just made 'Lord of the Rings'…

Middle Earth already has sweeping vistas, a hero's journey and technology-revolutionizing special effects. But next April, the Lincoln Center will add another dimension to Peter Jackson's…

Sports

Belinda Bencic leads crop of young stars serving…

Belinda Bencic, a 17-year-old Swiss Miss, beat two Top-10 players before suffering a disappointing loss Tuesday in the quarterfinals.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels take control, Tigers and…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels take control, Tigers and Giants climb

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Parenting

In defense of making a mess during playtime

"Recipes for Play" authors Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener think playtime should involve the five senses and making a mess is part of the fun.

Wellbeing

Jason Hope helps push anti-aging efforts forward

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article When it comes to age-related illness, the direction of modern medicine seems more reactive than proactive. In…

Wellbeing

Today's Doomsday preppers: a closer look at survivalist…

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. The term “Doomsday prepper” is often associated with the paranoid, anti-government stereotype of the 1990s. The truth…

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…