Chef Kenneth J. McDuffie of Young and Hungry Catering has cooked for everyone from hip artist Juelz Santana to Senator Vincent Hughes to The Philadelphia Eagles to R&B legend Patti LaBelle.
The 35-year-old Philly native officially launched his catering business in 2016, but spent years working his way up the restaurant industry food chain — getting his start at KFC, and then leaving Philly for Hawaii, working for Norwegian Cruise Lines.
He first learned how to cook from his great grandmother, Esther A. Smith.
“She was my mentor, teacher and my coach,” he says. “She taught me everything I need to know about cooking.”
When asked what he loves about the industry, it’s all about the people.
“It’s a way to show my craft, and I just love to make people smile and bring them together,” he says. “Food is a way to the soul — especially when it’s good.”
McDuffie gives us the lowdown on where to get the best tacos and margaritas in Philly, as well as where to dive into a healthy helping of wasabi potatoes.
Best late night meal?
City View Pizza and Grill, (Broad & Olney). I love this place because the service is amazing, they have great food and because when I don’t want to cook, I can always count on them. My favorite dish is the grilled buffalo chicken pizza and their grilled chicken caesar salad. The food is amazing, and my mouth is watering now for a slice or two.
Best meal under $10?
Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat (800 N. 4th St.). I love this place for brunch with my friends — literally everything is good. My favorite food is the reuben, without Swiss cheese. Being BYOB is the cherry on top.
Best-hidden food gem?
Buddakan (325 Chestnut St.) This restaurant is a little pricey, but literally the best Asian food I have ever had in my life. Highly recommended! I actually had my birthday dinner here about two years ago. My favorite dish has to be the lamb and the wasabi mashed potatoes.
Best place to dine alone?
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books (5445 Germantown Ave.) This is the best new place in Germantown! Beautiful interior and they have a reading corner for adults and children with a lending library. The banana hot chocolate and Danish was worth the recommendation.
Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
Just To Serve You Too (5132 N. 5th St.). This place is like going home to Big Momma’s house for Sunday dinner. The food is always amazing. They start you off with fresh, hot cornbread and I always order fried whiting, collard greens and baked macaroni & cheese.
Go-to date spot hands down?
Sampan (124 S. 13th St.) is one of my favorite spots in the city! Their happy hours are the best — great drinks and great food. My favorites are the brussels sprouts, Kimchi fried rice, the Korean bbq wings and the dumplings.
Best place to catch up with friends?
Ishkabibble’s (517 South St.) has the best cheesesteaks in Philly. My favorite is the chicken cheesesteak with mayo, fried onions, pickles and hot poppers cooked in. Don’t forget a side of fries!
Most Instagrammable restaurant?
Cantina Dos Segundos (931 N. 2nd St.). The food is amazing and my favorite dish is the fish tacos with mango salsa and of course, the Margaritas are to die for. I’m not a big drinker, but for the price you pay, you will definitely need an Uber home.