I spoke with Doreen DeMarco on her background in cooking and how she worked her way up in the Philly restaurant scene, from being in charge of the much sought after fried chicken at Resurrection Ale House as a prep cook, to her first stint as a head chef that ended when Gordon Ramsay came calling, to becoming Scott Schroeder’s padawan/sous chef at American Sardine Bar in South Philly [her first day was April 22nd]. Hired to eventually take over American Sardine Bar as chef de cuisine once Schroeder leaves to focus on opening another restaurant, DeMarco first has to enter the 36 chambers of Schroeder’s cooking.
You’ve been a fan of Scott’s for awhile, right?
Yeah, I’ve been following what he’s been doing for the last seven years or so.
Through Twitter and then on Instagram.
What about Scott and his food are you excited about?
Scott uses a lot of bold flavors and takes a lot of chances meshing different types of cuisine and that’s something that I’m into.
How did you find out about the opening?
He posted it on Instagram [laughs]. It was just a notepad. And I had just walked out of my interview for the sous chef position at Taproom On 19th. Sent him my resume. Didn’t end up hearing from him for two weeks and he was like sorry for the delay.
What are some of those bold flavors that you mention?
Scott likes everything spicy. I’m learning that even more now. Everything has some type of kick to it, whether it’s chiles, jalapenos, or even just the dry spices. Everything at Sardine Bar has a nice strong spice to it, a bold flavor.
What about your own cooking?
The spice thing for me is going to be something to get used to. I just like to season things really well. Salt and pepper at the table–I guess it’s necessary–but you shouldn’t have to use it.
What are some examples of Scott bringing in different cultures?
Well right now, we have a short rib banh mi with cucumber kim chi, chicken liver mayo and kewpie mayo as well.
How did you get into cooking?
My dad was a chef so I was cooking with him all the time. He took me to school and in the morning we’d stop by where he worked and I’d sit there and watch him get ready for his day, write out his prep list for people. We cooked at home a lot. I just grew up with a passion for it. My dad’s an excellent chef. I kind of just took it from him.
Where did he work?
It was over in Jersey. He was the executive chef at a country club. He did a lot of banquets and catering.
Is he still working in a restaurant?
No, he’s retired now, so I go over to his house sometimes and get some of my dad’s dinners.
What kind of stuff are you looking forward to when you go back home?
I love his spaghetti and crabs. He would call it crabs and galamad—it’s calamari but my dad’s born and raised South Philly. Relocated to Jersey. It’s still gravy. It’s galamad. Rigot.
How did you get your start in cooking?
I actually started off as a phone girl at a mom ‘n pop shop in my neighborhood [in Jersey]. One day, one of the line cooks didn’t show up, called out, or got fired—something. So they came over to me and were like, sooo, we think you can do this. This was a Friday night. I was like, no.
How old were you?
I was 17. Probably shouldn’t even have been on the line at that point [laughs]. It’s a mon ‘n pop shop so whatever.
It was fried food, sandwiches?
No, it was a lot of sautéing. They threw me right in on pastas. Doing clam sauces and domanis, carbonaras, stuff like that.
Chicken domani. Tomato, chicken stock sauce. They did have sandwiches and fried food but they were pretty well known for their pastas and portion sizes, so we rocked a lot of pasta out of that kitchen. It’s actually a franchise, but I worked for the original.
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