Christopher Kearse is moving uptown.
Plan is to close Will BYOB on June 2 and to open Forsythia — after the Levittown street he grew up on and where he started cooking — on Aug. 24. That will be seven years to the day that he opened at 1911 E. Passyunk Ave. He will continue to work with Will general manager Ben Jensen-Rosen.
Kearse, 34, was a young buck of 27 when he opened Will. “I’ve matured,” he told me, “and I’m limited what I can do here.”
Forsythia, 60-seater (with a full 14-seat bar), will feature modern French cuisine with classic undertones, but with a larger-format menu including canapes, small plates, pastas (stuffed, baked, and extruded), vegetables, larger plates, and maybe an entree or two out of the big-bellied wood-fired oven. It’s all designed to be shareable.
Kearse cautions that he will not serve pizza.
Kearse is known as a chef’s chef. “Will” happens to be his nickname and also a character trait. In 2000, as a teen, he was a passenger in a car that was hit by a drunken driver. Over the years, he endured 37 surgeries, many to reconstruct his jaw.
Before opening Will, Kearse worked at some of the best restaurants in America, like Charlie Trotter’s, Tru, Alinea, and French Laundry, after his 2005 graduation from the Restaurant School. He returned to the Philadelphia area as a sous chef at Lacroix and moved on to Blackfish in Conshohocken, followed by 2½ years as the chef de cuisine at Pumpkin.