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Q&A with Joe Carroll of Fette Sau

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Starr's new BBQ restaurant a long time ago.
Starr's new BBQ restaurant a long time ago.
Photo: Eater Philly

Joe Carroll of Fette Sau almost single-handedly gave NYC street cred in the world of barbecue, and Philly is four weeks out from the opening of our very own outpost of his meat mecca. While the announcement that Fette Sau was headed our way was a huge surprise to Philly, the revelation that he was partnering up with Stephen Starr floored everyone in the food blogosphere. Eater chatted up Carroll about his amazingly unique barbecue brand, and how it feels being one half of Philly's newest culinary Odd Couple.

How did you and Stephen Starr end up becoming partners?
We have some friends in common, and they paired us up. Honestly, I initiated the discussions, not the other way around. I wanted to take Fette Sau on the road and someone suggested Stephen, so I reached out. After some back and forth and a bunch of planning, here we are.

What will your role and Starr's role be in the operation?
So much of what works for us in New York is the consistency of our product, and I was trying to figure out a way of getting our team to Philly without having to relocate everyone. And, that's impossible. So, we needed someone who knew how to put a high quality team together and build a space. Who is better at that than Starr? He's been so successful in multiple cities, and honestly I'm lucky he signed on to do this project. He knows how to make the machine work when he's not there, and that's what I need. I will be developing the menu, the recipes, and everything food and beer related. Starr's team will make it happen.

So you're in charge of the kitchen? That's impressive. Starr has had tons of success, but there have always been stories about his "influence" in the kitchen.
(Laughs) Nah. We've got a great thing going in NYC, and Starr has a skillset which is absolutely amazing, too. So, the lines are clearly drawn. Also, we're bringing a concept to Philly that's been successful somewhere else, and not starting from scratch. So, that's a completely different situation.

Will you be cooking?
Ultimately, no, because I live in NYC, and have no plans to move. But, I will be there for the launch and stop down once a week to make sure it's all running smoothly. We're going to use another chef from the Starr organization to head up the kitchen. Most likely someone from Frankford Hall.

Do you worry about the quality since you won't be there? Should Philly expect a lesser product?
Absolutely not. We've done a lot of taste testing and everything I've had during my visits has been spot on and would pass a blindfold test, so I am more than happy. I'm actually very impressed. I am not just signing my name on this project, I'm doing the training personally, and teaching the kitchen. I believe it's much better to hire a young chef with no pre-conceived ideas about barbecue that would require de-programming first. Barbecue isn't the kind of cuisine that requires a ridiculous amount of technical training. You only need a feel for meat, and passion.

What's different in the Philly outpost of Fette Sau?
Well our barbecue will be the same. We have all the traditional cuts like ribs, belly, brisket, and chops. But, it's not specifically Texas or Carolina. It's unique. As for the space, physically it's bigger, so that's exciting for me. We will have room to add different products, and we will surely be using that to our advantage. I love reclaimed wood, and the whole place is made up of recycled wood, and I think that's pretty cool. We will still have the menu wall, and the tap handles will be the same, but most of everything else is different. Oh, also, we will have items specific to Philly, but they're not done yet, so I have nothing on that front.

When will you be open?
I think we're right around 3 to 4 weeks until opening. It's getting very close.

Will you dominate the Philly barbecue scene?
Honestly, I don't know that much about the Philly barbecue scene, so I can't comment. But, I am excited about Philly. It's an awesome food town, I love it here. And more barbecue can't ever be a bad thing, right? I think there's another barbecue spot opening right near us, but I am sure there will be room for all of us.

We're very excited for you to open up shop, and so is all of Philly.
Thanks. I can't wait to get started. Hope everyone comes to see us.

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Fette Sau

1208 Frankford Avenue, , PA 19125 (215) 391-4888 Visit Website

Fette Sau

1210 Frankford Ave. Philadelphia, PA