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South Philly flairs hit Fringe festival

Ben Puchowitz, chef of Bing Bing Dim Sum, prepares his a South Philly-influenced creation for the 2018 Audi FEASTIVAL.

Last year’s Audi FEASTIVAL at FringeArts. (Photo courtesy of Shana Saddic.)

South Philly cuisine will soon be amidst memorizing sky dancers and psychedelic performance art.

At Sept. 27’s annual and highly-anticipated Audi FEASTIVAL, the official conclusion to the 17-day citywide theatrical series FringeArts, esteemed chefs will be coupled to create original dishes representing various Philadelphia neighborhoods, including, of course, South Philly.

Returning once again to the festival, which includes co-host Stephen Starr and is praised as the pinnacle of the city’s world-class culture and cuisine, is Ben Puchowitz — executive chef of East Passyunk’s Bing Bing Dim Sum — a perpetually packed eaterie featuring “Chinese plates with a Jewish twist.”

Earlier in the summer, the festival co-hosts and acclaimed chefs Nick Elmi and Michael Solomonov, paired Puchowitz with Joncarl Lachman of Noord — also a constituent of South Philly’s Restaurant Row. When the two architects of flavor joined forces, they devised a plate symbolic of local populations.

The chef of restaurant Bing Bing Dim Sum (above) is one of the South Philly chefs to be featured at this year’s Audi FEASTIVAL. (Photo courtesy of Ben Puchowitz)

“Philadelphia — there’s tons of neighborhoods, like different regional foods and South Philly has a really awesome mixture of different neighborhoods with different cuisines kind of inlaid in it,” Puchowitz said.

Puchowitz, who is currently in the works of opening a Japanese restaurant called Nunu in Fishtown, and Lachman decided to fuse two South Philly demographics — Mexican and Cambodian, leading to a goat taco.

“A taco made sense, because, in South Philly, there’s a large Mexican population, and it’s a really functional dish for an event like that,” he said. “…Seeing someone just take their hand and put a salad in a plate isn’t very exciting so we wanted to do some live cooking.”

While a taco is practical for festival finger food, the chefs had to dedicate more time in figuring how to properly cook Cambodian-style meat — something that is usually prepared for an extended period of time.

The taco, which bounds braised goat, turmeric, ginger, black pepper and garnished Cambodian-style pickles, will be prepared right in front of festival attendees, as folks will not only experience the performing arts but the culinary arts, as well.

Along with breaking the barrier between chefs and consumers, Puchowitz says the meal preparation aligns with the expressive and experimental artistry of the evening.

“Being a chef is highly creative,” he said. “Every time you make a dish, you’re creating something, and it might not be art in the form of you’re making a painting that people are going to look at, but it definitely is creation, and using the creative part of your brain to produce something that people will enjoy. So, in that respect, it is very art-driven and creation-driven, so I think it falls right in line.”

Along with Puchowitz and Lachman, other paired chefs bringing South Philly flairs to the festival include Chris Baretta of Continental Midtown with Abigail Dahan of Parc, Jezabel Careaga of Jezabel’s with Clark Gilbert of Louie Louie, Jason Cichonski of Ela with Andrew Farley of High Street on Market, Richard Pepino of Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality with Michael Yeamans of Audrey Claire, and Seth Petitt of Urban Farmer with Rakesh Ramola of Indeblue.

While socialites, sponsors and patrons, delve in delights from other neighborhoods such as West Philadelphia, Chinatown, Kensington and Fishtown and the Northeast, Puchowitz says it’s crucial and only right that South Philly food be honored at this colossal creative celebration.

“It’s important to me, because being a restaurant in South Philly and a chef in South Philly, we’re part of the community and to kind of highlight some of the people who came before us and really made it a cultural destination neighborhood,” Puchowitz said. “It kind of feels good to just pay respect to that area.”

Info: The festival is being held on Thursday, Sept. 27, at FringeArts 140 N. Columbus Blvd. General admission tickets will be available for $300, with doors opening at 7 p.m. This year’s VIP tickets will be available for sale at $450, allowing guests to enjoy the festivities one hour before the general admission entry. Additionally, each ticket purchase to Audi FEASTIVAL includes a year-long FringeArts membership which is good for 30 percent off all show tickets for the annual season.

To purchase tickets, visit phillyfeastival.com/.

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