ICE Alum Joncarl Lachman's Philadelphia Restaurant Success
The Culinary Arts grad reflects on opening Philly brunch spot Winkel.
Joncarl Lachman (Culinary, ‘02) started culinary school when he was 38-years-old. After studying linguistics in college and spending years working in restaurants in the front of house, he decided he wanted to learn the ropes of the kitchen at the Institute of Culinary Education. Nearly 20 years later, he has opened six restaurants and currently owns two.
“I had just started working in restaurants after college, and I got caught in that trap of working my way up to be a fancy waiter and making really good cash,” Joncarl explains. “It got to the point that to start over and work in the kitchen, I had to make less money. I told myself to just bite the bullet and do it. I knew I wanted to stay in the business.”
ICE gave Joncarl the modern culinary education, instructional inspiration and unique opportunities that he was looking for. Once he graduated, he felt like he had the confidence and background knowledge that he needed to open his own restaurant.
Joncarl opened and subsequently sold restaurants in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, before moving back to his native Philadelphia. “I had a significant birthday and I was missing Philly, so we came home,” he says.
He worked with the Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation, a nonprofit aimed at enhancing urban neighborhoods, to find a home for a new restaurant in West Philadelphia's East Passyunk neighborhood. In 2013, he opened Noord, a Dutch BYO restaurant that reflects his heritage.
“Philly has a great BYO scene but most of them are French or New American,” Joncarl says. “My friends talked me into doing a Dutch restaurant and it’s been the most wonderful experience that I’ve had. I turned 50 and that’s why I did it. I always tell people, when you turn 50, do something exciting, new and brash. It just changes your life.”
Noord went on to receive multiple accolades and continues to be a local staple. Joncarl opened two more restaurants in Philly in the following years, one of which closed while he sold the other. Now, he's turned his focus to the new traditional Dutch lunchroom called Winkel. The Center City spot has a full-service area, as well as a to-go counter for coffee, pastries, sandwiches and soup called a broodjebag.
“Dutch lunchrooms are these spacious places where you can get toasties. They’re really traditional and airy. I wanted to be genuine to the concept. My soul was always Dutch cooking,” Joncarl says of Winkel, where his favorite dish that he created is a braised rabbit and white bean frittata with chives and sour cream.
Guests can enjoy this plate along with elaborate omelets, Dutch uitsmijter-style benedicts, deep-fried French toast and more in the big, naturally lit dining room with an open kitchen. Outfitted with classic, blue-and-white delftware tiles, thick wooden tables and black chairs, the space could be plucked straight out of Amsterdam.
Though the restaurant required a little more work in terms of updates and renovations than he expected, it’s been smooth sailing since Winkel started service. So far, the place has been packed on weekends for brunch, and weekdays are becoming increasingly popular. Now that Winkel is on its feet, Joncarl can spend his time in the front of house.
“When I open a new place, I cook until we get everything set and then we hire someone to cover what I’ve been doing,” says Joncarl. “I prefer my presence in the front. I like to host, bus and take orders. That’s really what I love to do. It’s what I did originally, but now I also own the place. I still run back to the kitchen when they need me, but most of the time, I’m the guy sitting at the door waiting for you to come.”
He speculates that his experience in both the front of house and the back of house contributes to his success. Often at restaurants, the two teams don’t get along, but Joncarl teaches his staff lessons that ease the tensions. When a customer sends a dish back, he insists it’s neither team’s fault. “I just want to create positive energy. I hope it leeches out to the guests as well,” he says.
Joncarl acknowledges there are a lot of competitive people in the restaurant industry, but finds that the Philly culinary community is quite supportive. Between the camaraderie among local chefs and owners and the warm, constructive space he’s created at his own restaurants, it’s no wonder he’s a jolly man.
“People always say I’m the happiest restaurant owner they’ve ever met,” Joncarl says. “I’ll take it.”
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