Last year former Uchiko Chef De Cuisine Page Presley stunned gourmands when he exited the Austin culinary scene to pursue other culinary opportunities in Philadelphia. Fast forward to present day and the chef is replanting his Texas roots and rejoining the Uchi family at St. Philip, South Lamar's well-reviewed pizza parlor and bakeshop.
Pressley, who has been working as the corporate executive chef at Starr Restaurants in Philadelphia for the past year, steps into the St. Philip head chef position following the exit of Philip Speer, the former director of culinary operations of all Uchi restaurants. A member of the Uchi family for years, Speer recently resigned from the Uchi group following a much-reported car accident and DWI arrest.
Though his departure was short, Pressley says he always planned to return to Austin and missed many aspects of working for the Uchi group. "[I missed] the deliberate nature by which we do things and the creative environment that is pervasive in all of our restaurants," he says. "With any one of our restaurants, our greatest strengths are our resources and commitment to excellence. We have a great staff. My primary goal right now is to get to know and take care of them and teach them as much as I can."
While Uchiko and St. Philip command different cuisines, Pressley's leadership style in the kitchen will remain the same. "Sound cooking principles and good work habits are required regardless of setting," he says. "Being rigorous in how our cooks approach their own habits will always be part of me. With that said, [I plan on] having bit more fun and and allowing the cooks to express themselves."
Pressley has fallen in love with signature St. Philip dishes like golden cauliflower, gluten-free chocolate cake and sausage pizza. And despite his affection for the restaurant's menu, the chef says a round of changes and improvements are around the corner.
"I'm always rearranging things, so the kitchen will always physically be evolving to create greater efficiencies. From a food perspective, my primary areas of focus are sandwiches, small plates and savory breakfast items for the bake shop. New chicken and fish dishes will be around the corner as well as giving the brunch menu a face lift. We have a lot of great stuff. I just want to bring a more cohesive feel to all of our menus."
For more information, visit the St. Philip Pizza Parlor + Bakeshop website.