Friday, May 10, 2013

Sitting Down with Trendy Neophyte Restaurateur & Avant-Garde Chef: Thad Paddington

I met Thad for the first time in a coffee shop below his South Philly loft. I found him draped over an antique velvet sofa wearing giant headphones, sipping home-brewed kombucha from a canteen and leafing through a Vanity Fair that was upside down. His corduroy blazer with elbow patches fit snugly over a faded tee with a necktie print. He saw me as soon as I parted the beaded curtains and walked in, but paused before removing his headphones and saying hello because as I later learned, an unreleased Atoms for Peace demo track was in its final minute.  


CC: So the name of your restaurant, "Sex", how did that come about? 

Thad: Well, despite what snarky local food journos have suggested, it's simply a nod to my hometown of Sextonville, Wisconsin.

CC: And your website "EatSex" dot com with the logo that appears to be a nude woman birthing a bowl of strawberries?

Thad: Again, just a tip of the hat to the Badger State's prolific strawberry crops. 

CC: So Thad, explain to us exactly what the concept of your new restaurant is. 

Thad: That's interesting because it's hard to actually describe it using 'language'. It's more of a sensual experience that absorbs you once you step inside. Think lava flowing into the ocean at Mauna Kea. Think Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. Aurora Borealis. All of those things, but with noodles.      
CC: That doesn't really make any sense. But what I am hearing is that you serve noodles. 

Thad: Hahaha. Well yes. And no. It's basically a noodle bar, if the Earth had just one noodle bar. It's the Sun if the solar system was Philadelphia and each neighborhood was a planet. It's the black hole of galactic flav--

CC: Thad. Please. I don't mean to interrupt you here, but I think we're getting a bit off track. Could you describe some of the items on your menu?


Thad: Absolutely. One of our most popular dishes is of course the Malpeque oyster beignets stuffed with cocoa-dusted seahorse and ginger prawn mousse with a side of pine needle-dipped Antiguan diver scallops baked in sunchoke root pomegranate puree and infused with ginseng eucalyptus shark fin paste. 

CC: I, uhhhmm...am not sure..

Thad: I know it seems like a lot, but that's the beauty of what we're trying to do here at Sex: simplicity. That dish is geared for working professionals on-the-go looking for a quick, inexpensive bite with not a lot of fuss. 

CC: But according to your website, that dish costs $26 and is served in a 10 lb clay pot? How is that affordable or take-out friendly ?

Thad: First of all, its not actually a 'pot' but a Nồi kho tiêu. Secondly, the cost is relative to how you perceive it. As far as actual value, the price point is set so the dish is practically free. 

CC: Please excuse me, but what in the Holy Loving Jesus and his Sweet Innocent Misunderstood Mother are you even talking about!? What about specials? Do you have a happy hour?

Thad: We don't really want to categorize ourselves as a 'happy hour' place, but we do offer a deal from 3:30-4:45pm on Wednesdays. It's called the 75 Minute Midweek Orgasm. Basically it's just our basil tangerine-curried Peruvian anchovetas stuffed with cinnamon pimento aoili, vacuum-sealed in bamboo leaves and frozen with a side of toucan chorizo ricotta and aloe foam for 18 U.S. dollars each. But the best part is, it's served in a Star Wars metal lunchbox and comes with a Kool-Aid drink mix pack for dipping your finger into for desert!



And see, that's how we're different. It's that whimsical attitude that just feels RIGHT. Like if you order a 'martini' at the bar, you're going to get a South African lobster tail consommé served in a Campbell's soup thermos with a poached egg atop a 7-inch vinyl record. But, if you order a 'glass of white wine', you'll get a rainbow snow cone prepared right in front of you with a Snoopy Sno-Cone machine. And that's what guests love. That fun surprise. That "hey I didn't order anything like that, but its SO fun and SO now - let's do it!' 

CC: So what kind of formal chef training did you have before opening Sex?

Thad: I actually don't have much in the way of 'conventional' culinary experience, but I think that's what sets me apart. I started out selling exotic craft sodas outside a vintage bike shop in Austin, which eventually led to a gig managing social media for a turtle hatchery in the Yucatán.


CC: So...no experience with food whatsoever?

Thad: Steamed buns.

CC: Why did you just say 'steamed buns?' What does that have to--

Thad: That's my new menu item. BAM! See this is how concepts come to me: they just swoop down from the turbulent brain clouds in my head like thunder birds. Steamed buns with ANY of our entrees miniaturized, caramelized and mechanically injected into them. It's going to blow the Philly dining scene into the river. Both rivers.

CC: Speaking of Philly, how did you end up choosing it as your first location?

Thad: Philadelphia has always rented a special spot in my heart. It tends to express itself as an underdog when it comes to culture, fashion, and especially food. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not, but I like that energy. That palpable sense that the scene can explode at any moment, but for the time being its like a little secret that the rest of the country doesn't know about at all. I dig that. And also Szabo, the Hungarian kickboxing coach who owns the building we're leasing gave us a great deal. Because he's married to my mother.   





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