Toque Talk: Mark Andelbradt

Mark Andelbradt travels the world as the corporate executive chef for the WolfGang Puck chain. He’s in Charlotte once a month and at the start of the year helped transform the former pizza bar in Phillips Place into what is now called WP Kitchen + Bar, featuring a more diverse and sophisticated menu, while still offering traditional favorites.

Why the concept transition?

There’s still a pizza oven in every restaurant, but we wanted the restaurant to be the kind where you can walk in and everyone can find something. We use a ton of local stuff from farmers markets and change up the menu quite a bit. The smoked salmon bruschetta is becoming a signature dish, and everyone loves the beet salad. The octopus is quite popular too. The inside also got a makeover—the goal was to brighten it up, and the soundtrack is now the same as the one you hear at Spago in Beverly Hills.

How will the new concept better serve Charlotte?

We think it’s more accessible to a different market—people who haven’t dinned with us before because they thought this was just a pizza place. It’s definitely a neighborhood restaurant. But it’s a demographic that wants a touch more sophistication on the menu like the salmon bruschetta—that’s Wolf through and through with the pumpkin seed oil. We also tend to get a lot of big groups in here and the menu really thrives with group; everything is good for sharing.

 

What do you think makes charlotte’s dining scene different from others?

Charlotte is a great city, but it doesn’t have the history or age of a city like Charleston or Savannah and it needs to find its identity. I think in culinary terms, most cities outside of New York, Chicago San Francisco, and L.A. are behind just because these cities get a lot of national attention. I think part if it is patience because the food scene in the South is finally starting to get a lot of attention.