The head chef at Kevin Sbraga’s soon to open Juniper Commons met the “Top Chef” through Craigslist.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Greg Garbacz started as a sous chef in “Top Chef” winner Kevin Sbraga’s namesake resto on Broad Street. Garbacz has since moved up to executive chef and will carry that title with him when he makes the move from Sbraga’s first Philly joint to his third. The upcoming Juniper Commons — an ’80s-themed restaurant, of all things — is shooting for a late November opening.
You’ve been with Kevin Sbraga since 2011. How did you get started with him?
Through Craigslist, actually. He had an ad on there for a sous chef, and two months before Sbraga opened I got the job.
How does it feel to be involved with his progression in Philadelphia?
It feels great. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think it’s one of the top restaurant groups in the city. We’re up there with [Stephen] Starr and [Jose] Garces. It feels good to be a part of a group that’s well respected, not just in the city, but nationally.
Can you tell us about the upcoming Juniper Commons?
The theme is circa 1980. We’re going to have ashtrays on the table. I mean, you can’t smoke in there, of course — it’s for the ambiance. We found some great Food and Wine and Gourmet magazines from the ’80s to put out. The menu is retro with a modern twist. The food will be rotisserie and raw bar. We’re installing an awesome grill, too, with a wood fire.
So you were very much involved with the menu-making process? What was that like?
Over the summer Kevin and I went to the West Coast — places like Seattle and Portland. Then to Austin to check out grilling. We were together for over a week and we wrote out the entire menu during that trip.
Are there a lot of unexpected challenges opening another restaurant?
This one is a huge challenge for me because I’m going into it as the executive chef.
I helped open Sbraga, but [Chef Sbraga] had someone then who was doing what I’m doing now. It’s a new challenge, but it’s exactly what I wanted to do.