Philly fine dining: Little cooks in a bigger kitchen

According to Zagat’s 2011 America’s Top Restaurants, Philadelphia has some of the finest dining around (though I would argue there are few things better than a Philly cheesesteak with a Yard’s beer.)

Philadelphia’s restaurants are increasingly getting a national reputation as the place to go for fine dining and good eats. One of the reasons is a new trend occurring at many locations.

Specialty desserts and baked goods are being prepared by small-time entrepreneurs and kitchen cooks who then sell their wares to the big eateries in town. Many of these chefs just don’t have the room or resources to rent space, so they make due as best they can by cooking from home. The end result is that our favorite restaurants in town now have some of the freshest, best-tasting homemade treats in the world.

As the job market continues to wane, people are increasingly looking for ways to earn a living outside of corporate America. These new foodie entrepreneurs sell everything from homemade chocolates to home brewed beer, and do it with good success.

In an effort to help these struggling chefs, new enterprises have popped up that allow cooks to use space to prepare their food for a fraction of the cost. These businesses offer a shared use commercial kitchen available for hourly rentals by caterers, personal chefs, bakers and other food professionals. They also host cooking classes and other food-related events. No doubt many family members are pleased to have their kitchens back.

Another trend in eating is fine dining at food carts. Once a place where you could grab a quick sandwich or container of fruit, today’s food carts offer menu items found at the best restaurants in town. Some cart owners cater to a specific clientele and tweet daily locations so fans can find their favorite lunch.

Family-owned businesses and small entrepreneurs make up two-thirds of Philadelphia’s employers. They are the backbone of our economy and an important part of what makes Philadelphia great. At the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, some 85 percent of our membership is made up of small businesses. Our aim is to connect members with opportunities to help their business grow and prosper.

– Rob Wonderling is president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. This marks the first in a monthly column running the second week of each month.

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