Smallman Galley was founded by two former U.S. Navy lieutenants, Tyler Benson and Benjamin Mantica, who were inspired by their stops around the globe. After coming back to the United States, they founded Smallman Galley on the belief that talented chefs deserve a better chance to break into the industry.
Benson and Mantica built a boutique food hall for undiscovered chefs to showcase their talent. Think of it as an elevated food court inside a beautifully designed restaurant. The four selected chefs stay at Smallman Galley for 18 months, running their own restaurant inside Smallman Galley, while learning the fundamentals of how to run their own business by taking classes such as accounting, law, and real-estate.
After 18 months the owners start the process over and find four new chefs. With chefs changing every 18 months, you’ll have no time to get bored eating at this restaurant!
The Chosen Chefs
Becoming one of the chefs at Smallman Galley is no easy process. Candidate chefs go through a three-step process of interviews and two sets of cooking demos.
“We are looking for chefs that have experience of running the kitchen, ordering, and managing their staff. We’re not really targeting towards brand new chefs,” says Mantica.
Here are the current four chefs at Smallman Galley that were selected through a rigorous process.
Stephen Eldridge: Eldridge is the chef for Provision PGH. He is originally from Scottsdale, Arizona and has moved to Pittsburgh to become a chef at Smallman Galley. While he’s a little older than the other chefs, he has more experience under his belt. He was the executive chef at Pink Pony, a very popular restaurant in Arizona. At Smallman Galley, he is doing an American Bistro concept. His menu contains classic burgers, fries, fish dishes, and sandwiches. “He’s kind of styling his American Concept in South-Western flair. He’s originally from Arizona, so that influences a lot in his menu,” says Benson.
Jessica Lewis: Lewis is in charge of Carota Café, a vegetable forward restaurant. Her health-conscious menu consists of seafood, salads, and a couple high end vegetarian/vegan dishes. She left her position as Sous chef at Hotel Monaco downtown Pittsburgh for this opportunity. She participated in “Hell’s Kitchen” TV show a few years ago, for season 11
Rafael Vencio: Vencio was the sous chef at a couple popular restaurants in Pittsburgh, such as Grit & Grace and Legume Bistro. He’s an immigrant originally hailing from the Philippines. He has lived all over the country and that has influenced his cooking. He’s also doing an American Bistro concept like Eldridge, but in a higher-end fashion. “It’s almost not even American, there’s some Italian influence in there,” says Benson. Vencio’s dishes have an American influence, but are also shaped by his world travels.
Jacqualine Wardle: Wardle was the executive chef at Isabela on Grandview, a restaurant in Pittsburgh, which was ranked within the top 100 romantic restaurants in the United States. At the age of 24, her profile is already noteworthy. She was a contestant on Food Network’s hit show, Cutthroat Kitchen. Her concept for her restaurant is toast-based, which is why the name of her place is Josephine’s Toast. All of her dishes are on toast, including her dinner menus. She has an amazing selection of brunch dishes such as French toast, scrambled eggs on toast, and avocado toast – which is one of the best-selling dishes at Smallman Galley.
An Emphasis On Keeping It Local
The food isn’t the only thing not to miss at Smallman Galley; the drinks are as well. “We have 20 beers that are all sourced locally. We’re really trying to highlight the local craft scene that is growing strong here. Also, our craft cocktails this season are all themed around the Pittsburgh Pirates.” says Mantica. The whole Smallman Galley is all about “keeping it local”. And it’s all yours to harvest and taste.
54 21st Street, Pittsburgh, PA