STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
“We’re very excited here,” said chef Francine Marz of the Montgomery County Community College Culinary Arts Institute (CAI) in Towamencin.
The excitement is for chef Stephen Latona, an instructor at the CAI, who is scheduled to appear on the CNBC show “Restaurant Startup” at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Latona and business partner Mark Bellini are looking to launch a restaurant in the Malvern/western Main Line area called Smoke Kitchen. The culinary enterprise’s specialty is oak wood-fired rotisserie chicken.
“Their dishes highlight the use of fresh, locally-grown vegetables and free-range chicken,” a press release from MCCC said.
“Restaurant Startup” is similar to another CNBC’s show, “Shark Tank,” and the burning question is will hosts and successful restaurateurs Joe Bastianich and Tim Love believe enough in Latona and Bellini’s vision to bankroll their business?
A link to a preview video for the episode is posted to www.facebook.com/pages/smoke-kitchen. “You guys a little old for this?,” Bastianich says at one point while interviewing Latona and Bellini.
“No, not at all,” Latona responds.
Each week on the show, two teams pitch their ideas. Tuesday night, Latona and Bellini will be competing against an Austin, Texas team looking to move their mobile fried chicken kitchen into a brick-and-mortar home. The episode title’s — “The Ultimate Cockfight.” The chosen team will be given 36 hours and $7,500 to create a business plan and a branding campaign, and then the keys to a space on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles to put their dream to the test in the form of a pop-up restaurant.
Latona, who teaches several classes at the CAI, including a course in retail operations, said in the MCCC press release: “It’s exciting and a great opportunity to have Smoke Kitchen selected as one of the 20 competing restaurants. ‘Who doesn’t love chicken?’ was a thought we had, and we love wood-fired cooking, so the rotisserie idea was conceived.”
According to MCCC, Latona brings a wealth of experience, including teaching 10 years at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia. “A graduate of The Restaurant School in Philadelphia, Latona has worked in a variety of food service sectors in the industry, including fine dining restaurants, catering and food styling,” the college said. “He has held a variety of chef positions and has worked in France, New York City and some of the top restaurants in Philadelphia. Latona also has worked with some of the premier catering companies in the suburban Philadelphia area and worked on a national cable television show coordinating all the food styling.
Bellini teaches as a chef instructor at Star Career Academy in Philadelphia and Sur La Table in King of Prussia. He has more than 30 years of extensive experience in restaurants, catering and retail marketing. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Bellini has held the executive chef position at Collegeville Inn and Marketplace and Queen of Hearts Gourmet Market and Catering. In addition, Mark has also been sous chef for Frog/Commissary Catering in Philadelphia, Sheraton Valley Forge and Blair Mill Inn in Horsham.”
Visit https://smokekitchen.wordpress.com and www.cnbcprime.com/restaurant-startup.