Interview: Chef Justin Bogle on Opening Avance in Former Le Bec-Fin Space

Chef Justin Bogle from Avance in Philadelphia, PA
Chef Justin Bogle from Avance in Philadelphia, PA

If anyone has a right to claim he’s having a busy week, it’s Chef Justin Bogle. The two-star Michelin chef who has worked at Philly's Alma de Cuba and Striped Bass, and NYC’s Gilt (where he got his stars) is opening Avance, a modernist American restaurant at 1523 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, on December 13. If that address sounds familiar, it’s because that space was the one-time home to George Perrier’s infamous Le Bec-Fin, as well as last year’s troubled LBF 2.0. From its stone, steel, and wood doorway to its progressive, seasonal, and locally-sourced menu, Bogle’s restaurant has done everything to insure that Avance is unlike anything you’ve seen before at that location, or anywhere else, in Philadelphia.

A.D. Amorosi: I know you’re doing a friends-and-family dinner tonight. Are you serving them from your starting menu, or are there surprises in store?
Justin Bogle: Yes, we’re just working out the kinks of the food and the service with people whose opinion we value and who are bound to be truthful.

A.D. Amorosi: Tell me about the first conversation that you had with Chris Scarduzio, the space’s managing partner. Was he onboard with making Avance as different from Le Bec-Fin as you were?
Justin Bogle: Yeah, 100%. Our conversation first started when it was still Le Bec-Fin 2.0 when Chris had it with Nicholas Fannuci. I was adamant then I didn’t want to be part of LBF 3.0 when they were initially just trying to hire a chef to replace Walter Abrams. I loved the place, what it represented, the bones of the property. I told them - and they knew c’mon – that Le Bec Fin is Georges Perrier, his legacy, and without him it should not be LBF. Moving forward to the present, I knew that if we were going to do this, if I was going to make the space my own, we needed to start fresh. It evolved to where we are now. That change needed to be done.

A.D. Amorosi: You say you liked the bones of the room. Did you have an immediate vision for what the space should look like and how much of that translates to what we are seeing now, the dark greys, the walnut tables, the slickness of it all?
Justin Bogel: The look and feel of what I wanted to do for a restaurant has been in my head for some time. Even if it wasn’t this location, I knew that I wanted to have a synergy between the food and the look of the space itself, a naturalistic feel with a sleek, modern design, organic elements with something future forward. We nailed it, I think.

A.D. Amorosi: What preparation or menu item did you start with that led to you to believe you had Avance figured out?
Justin Bogle: We’re never there, and that is an honest statement. The definition of the word "avance" is to lead, to progress. That’s the tone we’ve set for ourselves. I’m comfortable with where it is now and we are well on our way but it will constantly evolve. We want to be ever changing. I know people have used the term "hyper–local." We’ll source as much as we can here, but we’re realistic. That’s why the menu will change as much as it will. That’s’ why the ala carte menu is as solid as the two tasting menus.

A.D. Amorosi: Tell me about that please, the ala carte and the tasting menus. You don’t want this place to be stuffy, but you do wish to maintain the address’ elegant spirit.
Justin Bogle: The ala carte menu is to get audiences comfortable with what we do and who we are. We want to make it as easy on people who just want to order an app and a drink and hang out at the downstairs bar, as it is the dining room. The tasting menus are something where you sit back and let the chefs decide your experience.

A.D. Amorosi: There’s a lot of trust in that. You have to build up to that.
Justin Bogle: Definitely. That will highlight who it is we truly are. Plus, a lot of this came together quickly, like in the last several weeks.

A.D. Amorosi: What is the one item on the menu right now that gives us an idea of who you are, and what will best capture people’s imagination in regard to you and your restaurant?
Justin Bogle: People have some misconceptions about me – but I think the foie gras dish is pretty cool with the yogurt, pickled grapes and black walnuts. The foie gras itself is pretty standard, but what we’ve done to it with the other ingredients, should amaze you.

A.D. Amorosi: What do you think those misconceptions are that you mentioned?
Justin Bogle: Definitely there’s something negative– maybe not negative – but that my food is strictly molecular. I think they’ll find out quite to the contrary as soon as they see and taste it.


Avance opens on Friday, December 13, 2013; for more info, hours or reservations visit or call 215.405.0700

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Photo courtesy of Breslow Partners

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2013