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At 29, chef Brianna Wellmon debuts as executive chef of Old City’s new Frame

The restaurant is intended to help revive Old City as a scene, its owners say. Brianna Wellmon's late-night menu is designed with nostalgia in mind.

Chef Brianna Wellmon with a half-chicken entree at Frame in Old City.
Chef Brianna Wellmon with a half-chicken entree at Frame in Old City.Read moreMICHAEL KLEIN / Staff

After a decade of sous chef roles, 29-year-old Brianna Wellmon has moved up.

Wellmon, who graduated from Dobbins High with a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., is now executive chef of Frame, a nightspot that opened last week at 222 Market St. in Old City.

Frame is located in the spot of the former steakhouse Marmont, which designer Jeff Low swanked up with jewel-toned booth seating, sultry lighting, velvet-accented brick walls, and an extensive wraparound cocktail bar. The restaurant is intended to revive Old City as a scene, according to owners including Wayne Schulick, who ran the former Rittenhouse velvet-rope destination Denim through most of the 2000s.

The area’s new nightlife options during the pandemic have been limited to Mei Mei, while The Continental and Recess closed.

Wellmon’s dinner menu includes berbere-spiced filet mignon served in a jus of sherry and caramelized onion, and a tofu dish that is a vegan spin on beef with broccoli. She calls it “diverse and elegant but also relatable.”

It’s the late-night menu, which kicks in at 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday as the DJs start spinning, that she seems proudest of.

“This is nostalgia,” Wellmon said.

She paid attention to vegan and gluten-free diets — atypical of most late-night menus. There’s spaghetti squash and meatballs (vegan and gluten-free), chicken tenders (regular and gluten-free), and a triple-stacked grilled cheese sandwich served with a bowl of tomato soup (vegetarian), as well as pepperoni pizza pretzel bites and a gooey fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Hawaiian bread that is dusted with powdered sugar.

The casual dishes, designed for a younger crowd, are far from the more traditional food she was preparing before the pandemic, when she worked with her longtime mentor, chef Sylva Senat, at the Pyramid Club in Center City.

Wellmon went pro in high school, where she was part of the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program and helped out Senat, himself a C-CAP alum, at the long-ago Tashan restaurant on South Broad Street.

After leaving the Culinary Institute of America, she won an internship that sent her to Madrid for three months, where she worked with chef Antonio Hernando at the restaurant Alabaster (hence her use of global flavors like berbere spice on Frame’s filet mignon, and the green bean escabeche salad served as an appetizer).

Back in the States, she worked mostly at caterers and private kitchens including Garces Events at the Kimmel Center. She said that background, as well as her travels, gave her a good foundation in what dinner patrons and clubgoers want, and how to manage a kitchen staff.

“Leading a kitchen is getting up and preparing yourself to a calling that extends outside of you,” Wellmon said. “It’s challenging but gratifying. I hope to share that feeling with others.”

Wellmon said she has something to prove. “I feel really comfortable here, and I want to show that Philadelphia is more than a pit stop between Washington, D.C., and New York,” she said. “There’s a lot of creativity here.”