Morgan's Pier, the seasonal beer garden beside the Ben Franklin Bridge, will have the chef's services of Nicholas Elmi this summer.
Elmi, winner of Top Chef's season 11 and chef/owner of the East Passyunk Avenue restaurant Laurel, will be in the barrel in time for the April 30 opening. For each of its four seasons, Morgan's Pier have signed on a name-brand chef to interpret its "backyard barbecue" menu.
Talk about a change-of-pace: Laurel, which seats 22 people, versus Morgan's Pier, where 500 will gather at a time. "I assume it's going be a little different," Elmi told me, chuckling.
He credits last year's chef - David Gilberg - with helping to set up the infrastructure to allow for mass feedings. Gilberg is still around, by the way. He is now corporate chef for Four Corners Management, which runs the pier as well as the new William Street Common, the Dolphin Tavern, Drinker's Pub, Drinker's Tavern, Ortlieb's Lounge and Union Transfer.
Elmi will have his chef de cuisine, Kyle McCormick, and his sous chef, Keith Bellow, to help.
He said Avram Hornik, who runs Four Corners, "told me to create food you want to drink beer with - what you'd cook for your friends. Since Kyle and I are from New England, we'll do seafood, but also some down and dirty things like fried chicken, a burger and large grilled steaks." In a press release, Four Corners spelled out a few dishes, including peel and eat shrimp with togarashi butter; brined and fried chicken wings with black garlic barbecue sauce; pork belly tacos with gochujeon and shaved daikon; and lobster roll with celery and yuzu mayo.
This year, Morgan's Pier will serve weekend brunch and weekday happy hours that will allow patrons to order directlt from a grill cook.