Three's a charm — or at least that's what Kevin Sbraga is hoping for as he launches his latest endeavor next month. This November, the Season 7 Top Chef winner will expand his brand to Jacksonville, Florida when he opens his third restaurant, Sbraga & Company. Slated to launch on November 14, the former Cheftestant wants to bring a more rustic flair to the city having already conquered Philly with his prior eateries.
"When I went down there and I spent some time down there, I found good food and I found great ingredients, and really that's all that I needed to convince me that it made sense," he told The Daily Dish. "There are a lot of places, a lot of cities that are serving great food that someone may not know about or might not have all the glamour, but I found really good food down there. I found awesome people and then great, great, great ingredients."
With the success of his Philly spots, Sbraga and The Fat Ham, Kevin doesn't want to mess with the formula. Instead, he notes that Sbraga & Company is "an evolution of the brand." "We're building on the brand," he said. "There are things that are what we call Sbraga-esque or Sbraga dining — and there's always going to be a chili or a heat component to a lot of our food. There's gonna be well-seasoned food. There's gonna be food that's based on great ingredients. All of those things are the same, but the ingredients are a little bit different."
Kevin and his team built the menu, in part, after traveling around parts of the South to seek out inspiration for the dishes. "The menu really was born at the farmers' market," he said. "Jacksonville really is the last city in the South. A lot of times, we think, 'Oh, it's Florida. It's Floridian,' and Jacksonville is really not that. It's the last city in the South and so that's a bigger influence. There's also a major barbecue influence in Jacksonville. Honestly, some of the best barbecue I've had is in Jacksonville and it's pretty cool."
So what should fans look forward to at this new restaurant? "We have one dish called 'hog and hominy,' and really, it's a play on grits and roasted pork," he teased. "That's one I'm really excited about because it's absolutely beautiful."
Kevin might be very busy, but he hasn't strayed far from his Top Chef days — which, luckily, taught him a few very valuable lessons. "One of the things on Top Chef you learn very quickly is time management under pressure and that is exactly what my life is now," he explained.
He also hasn't lost touch with some of the friends he made through the experience, which is one of the benefits from the show he treasures most. "Within the last 18 to 24 hours I've spoken to four people that were on the same season I was on. It's just amazing," he said. "It's not something that is common, but I get to talk to the chefs whether it's Angelo [Sosa] or Kenny [Gilbert] or Tiffany [Derry]. You know, some of them I talk to once a week — and even people that weren't on my season [like] Mike Isabella. So the camaraderie, spending time with the chefs is the thing I'll always remember. Those friendships. There's definitely and bond and friendship that forms that doesn't disappear or go away easily."
Take note, future Cheftestants: that's one thing you have to look forward to. Season 13 of Top Chef premieres on December 2.