With an ex-punk rocker from Vermont using French cooking techniques to serve Montreal cuisine in the Italian Market, patrons should expect the unexpected at Bella Vista’s newest restaurant.
Coeur opened at 824 S. 8th St. in mid-September, the latest venture from Brendan Hartranft and Leigh Maida, the duo behind Local 44, Memphis Taproom and Strangelove’s. The kitchen at Coeur is open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight during the week and 11 a.m. to midnight on the weekends.
Chef Andy Tessier is in charge of creating items like a poutine burger—brown gravy, cheese curds, confit tomato, and fried potato skins—and a bacon wrapped rabbit porchetta with polenta and fennel.
Tessier, a 31-year-old native of Barre, Vermont, said his days in the kitchen began at age 14 when he was hired as a prep cook at Rhapsody, a restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. A singer, bassist and guitarist, working in restaurants acted as a way for Tessier to uphold his musical lifestyle.
“I used to play in a lot of punk rock and hardcore bands,” Tessier said. “When I was younger, it was easy to be like, ‘Well, I’m going out on tour, so if the job’s here when I get back, I’ll take it.’ I hit about 24 years old and decided I wanted to take it a lot more seriously.”
Tessier never attended culinary school. He worked in restaurants in New York City and New Jersey from 2006-2012. In 2009, he started working for acclaimed French chef Daniel Boulud. Tessier worked in the kitchens of DGBG Kitchen and Bar in East Village and Mediterranean restaurant Boulud Sud in the Upper West Side.
After his return to Philly, Tessier worked at farm-to-table BYOB Farm and Fisherman and Pub and Kitchen. Tessier found his current position at Coeur through a friend, who connected him to Hartranft and Maida.
Montreal is a two-hour drive from Tessier’s hometown. Tessier used to cross the border and visit the city on a regular basis to see family. Although the city’s cuisine takes inspiration from French cuisine, the neighborhood cafés and bistros have their own flavors.
Chef Martin Picard’s restaurant Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal is, Tessier said, probably his favorite restaurant that exists.
“It’s totally over the top,” said Tessier. “When it was really cool to do really tiny plates and molecular stuff, Picard just went, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. I want to do whole pigs and ridiculous over-the-top plates. That’s what we’re going to do.’ I really like that style. I like his totally ignoring the current trend and doing something that’s totally rustic and down to Earth. Everything is so heavy but so good. There’s so much care and effort that went into it. For me, when I think of Montreal, that’s what I think of. Tons of care and effort, tons of really nicely done rustic stuff presented in a way that’s approachable. You don’t have to show up in a tuxedo for dinner.”
The interior is decorated with old paintings, photographs and a teal-papered wall of rabbits and mushrooms.
For Tessier, bringing Montreal cuisine near the Italian Market is one more step in Philly’s changing food scene.
“We have a lot going on right now—but we’re a younger scene,” said Tessier. “We started a little bit later in the game. I think Philly’s in the middle of a food renaissance. 10 years ago you had Vetri and Le Bec[-Fin]. That was pretty much it. Now you have all these restaurants opening that are creating some fun competition for one another.”
Madeline Presland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.