After six years dishing up rustic Mediterranean eats at critically acclaimed Rolf & Daughters, Philip Krajeck could have sat back and enjoyed his success. But that wasn’t in the cards for the James Beard Award-nominated chef.
Instead, he set about doubling down with Folk, a rustic ode to the art of pizza that clinched him Eater’s 2018 Chef of the Year award. The bright, simple space has quickly become a favorite East Nashville hang that garners more than a few repeat visits from pizza aficionados all over the city.
Eater recently sat down with Krajeck to chat about the inspiration behind Folk’s infamous clam pie, where he eats on his day off, plus in true Nashville fashion — what he’s listening to in the kitchen for inspiration.
1. Two words: Clam. Pizza. What inspired you to create one of the most talked about menu items at Folk? “The inspiration came from one of my all-time favorite restaurants, the now shuttered Franny’s in Brooklyn. We dared ourselves to replicate their iconic clam pizza, but also made it our own with some tweaks — like adding shaved katsuobushi. We worked at it, and the results seem to have struck a chord here. We love it, but I still miss Franny’s.”
2. Chefs tend to have a simple “go-to” dish at home that they can throw together quickly and easily after a long day in the kitchen. What’s yours? “It’s normally late when I get home, so I tend to keep any involved cooking to a minimum. I’m big into sandwiches lately. Recent late-night assembly: our own bread, mayo, whatever protein we have in the fridge (more often than not rotisserie chicken or a fried egg), whatever CSA greens are in the fridge (dressed in leftover pickle juice), avocado and Kettle brand jalapeño chips (on the sandwich). Then, there’s a lengthy list of various hot sauces, pickles, mustards that might get thrown in the mix. “
3. What’s the place you eat at most often on your days off? “On a regular basis, I’m most likely to eat at home. My wife, Anastasia, is an incredible cook and we love meals at home with friends and family.
I’ve left myself the time, I’ll grab a coffee and pastry from Crema on the way to work. Lunch at Arnold’s is a favor I do for myself when I get the chance and Café Roze and newly opened Babo are both in my ‘hood and great, low-key spots. “
4. What’s your favorite ingredient to work with and why? “It is impossible to choose one ingredient over another. What excites me most about ingredients is their taste, quality and seasonality. It could literally be any vegetable from Rocky Glade Farm. Our relationship and proximity to them allow us to often receive something that’s just been pulled from their soil that day.
Could be the first Sungold tomatoes of the year, the beautiful, cold-pressed oil from Clay Oliver in Georgia, or fermented green tomatoes used to season our mussel toast, or the first bag of new season cold stone milled wheat from Carolina Ground. The list goes on... We have such luck in dealing with and making dishes from what excites us most, so it’s a difficult answer to give in a binary way.”
5. You spent a good amount of your youth in Brussels, soaking up the food and cultural scene. What aspects of that experience have you brought to your current restaurants? “One common pillar with both restaurants is that thoughtful food made with incredible ingredients does not have to be ‘special.’ My goal is to make seasonal, high-quality cooking accessible to many. It’s an always evolving magic trick, balancing everything that goes into running restaurants while finding space to focus and push forward in the kitchen. Luckily, incredible teams do a lot of that heavy lifting and add invaluable input and creative momentum.”
6. Since this is Eater Nashville, what music are you listening to in the kitchen? “It’s a massive range of music and styles in the kitchen, from world music and Afrobeat to new jazz, hip hop and stoner metal. It shifts throughout the day. Ebbs and flows with the vibe.”
7. Let’s say money — and customer traffic — were no object. What kind of restaurant are you opening? What’s your dream passion project? Also, where would you open it? “I’m already living my dream in that place. My best life as they say. Of course, there is always the thought of the next thing, things you’d refine, things you’d scale back, little tweaks to this and that. And it’s a fun exercise to let yourself think in those terms, but truthfully, Folk is less than a year old, RAD is humming along in a great way, and I’m still very much in that proud dad phase.”
8. What’s the most exciting thing happening in the culinary world right now? “Great restaurants created by focused, passionate professionals are popping up in what once would have been considered unlikely cities and towns. Gone are the days when all of the great restaurants were concentrated in only a few metropolitan cities. With this, the willingness of diners to try new ingredients grows and spreads.
Also, the way people travel and eat has changed. We have a loyal, stoked base of diners, but we also experience the groups who staying nearby in an Airbnb and checking us off their dining to-do list.
It’s easier now to be savvy about food, which is exciting. Dining out feels more democratic. There are no real “gate keepers” now. Social media has everything to do with that — we do our thing on Instagram and are always blown away by the reach.”
9. After a shift, what are you ordering at the bar? “It changes and really just depends on the moment and mood after working all day. If it was a grueling sprint all day, I’ll drift into Wilburn Street Tavern — our neighbors — for a simple, domestic lager served ICE COLD (Bud heavy). Lately, I’ve been favoring wine a little more than anything else. A glass of rosé or a chilled, carbonic macerated red hits that sweet spot.”
10. What are your biggest pet peeves in the kitchen? “Complaining. Only half kidding, but... complaining.”