Grill the Chef: R2L's Daniel Stern

NBC Philadelphia talks to the owner and chef of R2L and MidAtlantic

Daniel Stern, a South Jersey native, is probably not a name you’re familiar with, which is pretty crazy considering he is one of Philadelphia’s most celebrated chefs, he currently owns two restaurants in the city, MidAtlantic and R2L, and his previously owned eatery, Rae, was named one of Esquire Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2007. 

But the accolades don’t stop there.

Stern’s establishments have been on many “Best” lists -- The City’s Best New Restaurants, Best Restaurants in Philly, Top 50 Best American Cuisine Restaurants in the Country -- needless to say, we had many questions for this extremely talented food whiz.

You’ve cooked in five different, very popular kitchens in Philadelphia – Le Bec-Fin, Gayle (owner), Rae (owner), MidAtlantic (owner) and R2L (owner) – which gave you the richest experience?

It really is the entire experience. This has all just part of the journey; however, there really is nothing that compares to being able to create the entire experience from the ground up.

We hear you didn’t go to Culinary School, but you’re obviously a wonderful chef. Why did you choose to forgo school? And who was your best mentor?

I didn’t go to formal culinary school, but I was very serious about my education.  I sought out the best teachers in the country: Gray Kunz, Rocco DiSpirito, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud and the Ritz Carlton. Each experience opened up new windows on food and service.

You’re a Cherry Hill native, so Philly was the obvious choice for the home of your restaurants and the idea behind the menu at MidAtlantic. What’s makes Philly’s dining scene so special for you?

I think what makes Philly so special is that it is home for me. The fact that I believe and want to share with the world that Philly, and really the region as a whole, possesses cuisine that transcends just the cheesesteak—which, don’t get me wrong, is an awesome thing to eat—provides a great amount of fun for our team.

Where do you go to eat when you’re out on the town?

It depends on my mood; we recently had a fantastic meal at LaCroix

Who’s the boss in the kitchen at home? You or your wife?

I’ll have to ask the boss…just kidding, I’m still pretty handy in the home kitchen.

Speaking of your wife, you named your first restaurant, Gayle, after her – very romantic – but if you really wanted to impress a lady, what meal would you prepare?

See below: (hint: it would involve butter, eggs and champagne)

And your grandmother inspired the name R2L? How so?

My grandmother, Rae, was always the life of the party; she loved a good cocktail, she was a great cook (as is my mom) and she loved to entertain. What better inspiration for an amazing restaurant like R2L?

Give us three items that are always in your fridge?

Butter, eggs, champagne

The 3 ingredients every home kitchen should have?

Butter, eggs, champagne

The 3 utensils every home kitchen should have?

A good knife, a good cutting board, champagne (gin can do in a pinch)

What’s one secret about you that the public doesn’t know (and make it juicy)?

Depending on my schedule, you can some times catch me singing with the bands we book at MidAtlantic.

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