There's been a changing of the guard at Alla Spina, as Pat Szoke is out and Julie KIine is in as chef de cuisine.
The promotion at Marc Vetri's North Broad birreria marks a milestone:
Kline is the first woman to helm the kitchen of a Vetri Family restaurant.
Women have been part of the Vetri kitchen staff for years — currently, Tia McDonald is culinary purchasing director for the restaurant group and Alix Christina is sous-chef at Amis — but never before has one held the top spot.
"Back of the house was a male-dominated industry for a long time, but it's changing," says Vetri COO Jeff Benjamin, pointing out that if you look back at the rosters of the Vetri Great Chefs fundraiser over the years, you'll see an increasing proportion of female participants.
"We're really excited that this time around, the most qualified person for the [chef de cuisine] job happened to be a female," he says.
Marc Vetri echoes that sentiment: "[Julie] has been part of Alla Spina since day one [in February 2012] and is as much a part of the fabric of that place as all of us. It's only natural that she takes the helm and leads us forward. Male or female."
Kline, a Birdsboro, Pa., native and graduate of Johnson & Wales culinary school, had been working at Judy's on Cherry in Reading when she heard about the Italian beer bar that Vetri and partners were opening.
She showed up on the very first day of the Alla Spina job fair and worked as hard as she could to prove herself worthy of a position. "When I got the job as a line cook, I picked up my whole life and moved to Philly," she says.
"We didn't really give Julie the chef job so much she took it - she earned it," says Vetri Family partner and culinary director Brad Spence.
Kline is updating the Sunday brunch menu. In general, expect more of the guilty-pleasure gastropub food the bar is known for. For example: a recent Kline creation now on the menu is the "Trentino grilled cheese" (with gorgonzola, provolone, speck and figs), and her favorite dish is the pastrami smoked duck Reuben.
"To be the first female Vetri chef is astonishing to me," Kline says, adding, "This place has been my home for the past three years, and I love everything about it. I have to see it succeed."
Asked if she had gotten into the whole kickboxing and jujitsu thing that Vetri, Spence and partner Jeff Michaud practice, Kline demurred:
"No, I have not, and as of now I wouldn't count on it."