Chefs on StarChefs
526 S. Fourth St.
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 922-7151

Biography »

Pamela Lewy: : Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Bryan Sikora: I have always been a creative person. I went to art school and I’ve also worked in restaurants during high school. The transformation was simple. Restaurants were a good way to make money, and I enjoy the instant gratification of preparing a dish as opposed to spending days on a painting. I later went to culinary school and gained more inspiration.

PL: Who are your mentors?

BS: Robert Trainor, whom I worked with during my externship in Cape Cod and Nora Pouillon from Nora’s in Washington, D.C. Her method was very interesting and it was my first opportunity to work with someone who uses totally organic products.

PL: What chefs do you most admire?

BS: Daniel Boulud, Charlie Palmer, Jasper White and Dean Fearing.

PL: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?

BS: A Chinois.

PL: You’ve traveled to many places all over the country. What cities do you like for culinary travel? Why?

BS: Every city has such a different environment. They’re more ingredient-driven on west coast and on Cape Cod. I prefer the towns where there are actual working markets. That’s why Philly’s so interesting. There are so many different kinds of markets that bring ingredients to the people directly from the producer. I love cities with historic food involvement.

PL: You actually thank the farmers and local producers at the end of your menu.

BS: Yes, I think my costumers respect that. Django buys food from local neighborhood places. Customers see my wife and me at the market and they know that they are being served quality ingredients.

PL: What are your favorite food haunts in Philly?

BS: I generally like simpler places. My wife and I like to go BYOB’s and we’re very open-minded when we go out to eat. We like the Standard Tap and Dimitri’s for Greek-Mediterranean food. I don’t like contrived restaurants.

PL: Your cooking is very labor-intensive. You make your own pastas, breads, ice cream and even pickles. What inspires you to cook “the old fashioned” way when there are so many gadgets for short cuts these days?

BS: There are many ways to take short cuts, but not taking them goes back to the concept of becoming a chef. This is what people expect because this is how we created it. My own restaurant gave me the experience to learn how to cook and create new things. Right now, we smoke our fish and meats and this motivates me and keeps me interested. Short cuts aren’t worth it when my name is on the line. It’s more work this way, but it’s well worth it in the end. It’s what the restaurant and what my wife and I love.

PL: What is your favorite spice?

BS: Probably fennel seed.

PL: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?

BS: Do you consider yourself highly dedicated, open and willing to learn and take on new skills and new information?

PL: What advice/tip do you have for culinary students just getting started?

BS: Find a place you like and appreciate it. Find a job and stay there for a couple of years to gain real fundamental knowledge. Don’t be too concerned about pay and how quickly you’ll become a sous chef. Learn technique over everything else.

PL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?

BS: Still operating Django as it is or in a larger environment. I would eventually like to own and work in a boutique hotel that features good food, like the Inn at Little Washington.



Django | Philadelphia, PA

Who has time these days to make homemade pasta and fresh-baked bread, not to mention smoked fish, ice cream, and pickles? Bryan Sikora, that’s who. Sikora refuses to take any short cuts in his kitchen at Django, where his seasonal dishes reflect the Austrian, Spanish and Moroccan influences of his broad culinary background. His “old world” philosophy and his penchant for organic ingredients are what make Django a successful neighborhood restaurant and foodie heaven.

Spiced Red Tail Venison Carpaccio, White Runner Bean Puree, Parmesan Socca Cracker, Truffle Vinaigrette
Chef Bryan Sikora of Django – Philadelphia, PA
Adapted by StarChefs

Yield: 6 Servings


  • 1 loin venison, 6-8 ounces, trimmed and tied
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 star anise, ground
  • 10 fennel seeds, ground
  • Peanut oil
  • 2 ounces chickpea flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 to 4 ounces water
  • Salt
    Black truffle juice:
  • 6 ounces black truffle juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
    Runner bean puree:
  • 8 ounces French runner beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 large carrot, cut into thirds
  • 1 onion, split
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into thirds
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon black truffle oil
  • 3 ounces olive oil
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese
  • 2 shallots, minced, sautéed, and cooled
  • 1 ounce champagne vinegar
  • 1 ounce sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 ounces olive oil
  • 6 ounces black truffle juice, thickened
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
    Petite garnish salad:
  • Chiffonade of radicchio, about four leaves
  • Frisée, tender center leaves


For venison:
Season venison generously with salt and pepper, and rub meat with ground spices. Heat a large sauté pan with enough peanut oil to thickly coat pan. Once pan begins to smoke, gently place meat in pan. Sear meat on all sides. Remove venison and cool on rack to room temperature. Wrap venison in plastic and freeze until firm. When ready to serve, remove venison from freezer and allow it to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. If the meat is too cold it will crumble. Slice venison across the grain, as thinly as possible, using a meat slicer or a very sharp kitchen knife.

For socca:
Puree chickpea flour, Parmesan, olive oil, and water together in blender until smooth. Add salt to taste. Cook the socca like a crepe over low even heat in a non-stick pan with non-stick spray oil. Once edges begin to turn brown, the socca should begin to release itself. Keep socca in a 100°F oven until ready to use.

For black truffle juice:
In a small saucepan, heat truffle juice and cornstarch over low flame. Modify amount of cornstarch depending on preference of sauce consistency.

For runner bean puree:
Place beans in a large pot with carrot, split onion, celery, bay leaf. Add enough water to cover beans. Cook until tender over medium-high heat. Remove vegetables and bay leaf and drain, reserving liquid. Puree runner beans in a food processor with black truffle oil, olive oil and Parmesan cheese until smooth. Use reserved bean liquid to adjust consistency so it is smooth but not runny.

For herb oil:
Puree all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Allow mixture to infuse for one hour and then pass through a fine sieve.

For vinaigrette:
Puree sautéed shallots and both vinegars in a blender. Add salt and olive oil, blending to emulsify. Next blend in thickened truffle juice and transfer vinaigrette to a storage container. Stir in chopped herbs and reserve.

To serve:
Arrange six to eight slices of venison on a plate and dress liberally with vinaigrette. Dress petite greens with vinaigrette in a bowl; put a dollop of bean puree in the center of plated venison slices and top with socca. Place a tangle of the dressed petite salad on top of the socca. Finish with a drizzle of herb oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a dusting of finely grated Parmesan cheese.

 Published: May 2004