A Preview of What’s Cooking at Smallman Galley in the Strip
What does the word “galley” mean to you? By definition, a galley is a large kitchen found inside of a ship or an airplane. But for two U.S. Navy Lieutenants, it stands for much more.
For Ben Mantica and Tyler Benson, their ship galley wasn’t just a space to enjoy meals, but a place to find a sense of community and relaxation–a feeling of camaraderie between a group of individuals all dedicated to the same mission.
Now, the two-man team is onto their next mission: they’re currently on track to provide an opportunity for undiscovered chefs, while working to develop the essence of a navy galley in Pittsburgh.
Their hope is that they can build a foundation for the chefs on their team: to create, collaborate, network and facilitate a sense of community among their guests. Located in the Strip District, the “chef incubator” has been rightfully deemed “Smallman Galley.”
Catch a sneak peek of the chefs, their histories, and what they have in store for your taste buds below:
Since immigrating to the U.S. at just 19 years old, Philippines native Rafael Vencio has lived and worked in multiple cities–most recently, in Pittsburgh (Spoon, Legume, Hyeholde). He attributes much of his skill sets to his heritage and upbringing, stating that “food is ingrained in his culture.”
“Everything revolves around food. Growing up, I was always exposed to it–my grandmother, a phenomenal cook, was my primary influence. She gave me the opportunity to help out with cooking, and I took it upon myself to learn.”
Chef Vencio expressed excitement for the opportunity to showcase his talents, interact with guests and collaborate on events at Smallman Galley. His menu will offer American-immigrant meals using locally-centric ingredients–“from Creole, to Cajun, to Baja.”
“The menu is like a timeline, [transitioning] from Old World to modern dishes, and will feature wholesome, sustainable ingredients.”
As a graduate of Pittsburgh Art Institute’s Culinary Arts Program, Jacqueline Wardle has made a name for herself in the world of food. Despite making it to the final round of The Food Network’s television show, “Cut Throat Kitchen,” she considers the respect she’s earned from her colleagues as one of her biggest accomplishments.
“[For] the past year, I’ve been working as the executive chef at Isabela on Grandview, and I’ve had a great team. I’ve held the respect of my coworkers and staff, and that has made all the difference.”
Wardle’s menu is focused around one particular ingredient–toast. Having worked at establishments with various meal concepts, such as The Common Plea, Marty’s Market, Eleven and Isabela, she hopes that this food will resonate with everyone.
“I get to start a brand new chapter and bring brightness to people’s lunch. The concept means a lot to me, and I hope that it will have a special place in their hearts.”
Formerly the Executive Chef at Pink Pony restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, Chef Stephen Eldridge is anxious to get started on the next chapter of his career. Eldridge, his wife, and their two young daughters moved across the country to Pittsburgh for this opportunity.
“We just moved 2,200 miles from Arizona, and I can’t wait to start… It’ll be fun and a lot of hard work; nonetheless, I’m going to love it.”
Eldridge’s menu concept is a personal interpretation of the direction American food is headed. Being a relatively new country, Eldrige believes that American food is highly influenced by the cultures and foods of other countries from where people have emmigrated. His menu will feature flavors from Western Africa, the Mediterranean, Latin America, Vietnam, Japan, and more. Eldridge, like the other chefs, is humble and thankful for this opportunity.
“More than anything, I’m grateful for the chance and honored to have been chosen. I am able to own a business and have the final say of what’s on the menu, the type of service to provide, and the beverage program. I have a platform to show what my wife and I are able to do.”
As a former collegiate swimmer at the University of Virginia, Jessica Lewis always had health and wellness on her mind. Often cooking for her roommates, she enjoyed the idea of entertaining them while providing healthy meals.
“I always liked the entertainment of cooking. I liked cooking for friends and family and bringing everyone together. That is something that food does.”
Drawing emphasis on in-season and locally grown vegetables, Lewis hopes to provide fun and delicious meals with an interchangeable menu concept. With this opportunity, she’ll be able to experiment, switch up vegetables and flavors, and test out future recipes. In lieu of the standard, protein-focused meal, meat and seafood items will instead compliment the featured vegetables.
Lewis shared that she has high hopes for this experience; her drive and determination has helped transform her dreams into realities.
“Smallman Galley means the opportunity to do something bigger than I’ve ever imagined and the opportunity to start my own restaurant. Without them, I’d still be working in a corporate setting, and [now] I’m able to explore my own options.”
Smallman Galley plans to open its doors the first week of December. Stay up-to-date with its happenings on the website; and be sure to plan a visit to chefs at their designated spots for a selection of tasty, well-crafted meals.