This week, we spoke with Chris Galbraith ’02, the executive chef of Philadelphia’s newest brewpub, Bar Hygge.
If you had asked Galbraith during his high school years about his choice of a career, he would most likely have given a variety of answers. Not unlike most students just graduating high school, Galbraith used his college years to decipher what he really wanted to pursue.
Becoming a “Master Chef”
Galbraith initially attended St. Mary’s College of Maryland, spending his first two years there before heading to St. Michael’s College in Vermont. It was during his senior year at St. Michael’s that Galbraith said he got the “brilliant” idea to transfer out just one semester before graduation and enroll in culinary school.
He completed his degree in culinary management at the New England Culinary Institute, one of the first bachelor’s degree programs at a culinary-specific school, at a time when most culinary degrees were given at the associate’s degree level.
Professional Pursuits
Galbraith worked in the greater Boston area for the first four years of his career. He next moved closer to home and was a chef in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, working in an array of positions which included running a corporate food program with clients such as Yahoo! and Viacom.
Most recently, he seized the opportunity to “get in on the ground floor” of a new Philadelphia brewpub, Bar Hygge — pronounced “HYOO-guh” — which opened earlier this week in the Fairmount / Spring Garden neighborhood.
“Bar Hygge is a place for comfort and camaraderie,” Galbraith explained. “Hygge is a Danish word for camaraderie. It’s a synthesis of great beer and exceptional food with a warm and comforting atmosphere.”
The restaurant is certainly cozy, with round, intimate booths, lounge couches and tall windows in the one-floor eatery. Galbraith notes it is a great place to bring a group or to grab a drink from the on-site brewery, which can be viewed through a “puzzle-piece” window display.
With the February 3rd grand opening festivities completed, he is now in full swing as the executive chef of the brewpub, where he works up appetizer boards of meats, cheeses and vegetables, as well as more conventional dishes: roasted chicken breast, braised short ribs and grass-fed beef burgers, among other casual plates.
“I am most excited about our Hygge Board menu, which is best described as an American-style tapas menu,” he said. “It features a meat section focused on house charcuterie, seasonal and local composed vegetable bites and a curated cheese selection. The boards also come with our house made bread along with seasonal accompaniments.”
Goals for Bar Hygge
Galbraith takes great satisfaction in the personal initiative he can take as executive chef.
“I’m at a point in my career where I have the skill set and experience to cook with my own voice,” he said. “My goal for this place is for it to be a top-50 restaurant in Philadelphia by the end of the year.”
That’s not the only lofty goal he is setting for Bar Hygge. Galbraith also has his eye on the James Beard Awards, the highest honor for food and beverage professionals in America — widely considered the Oscars of the food world.
“We are a full scale brewery and it’s pretty impressive in that capacity,” he said. “My background is primarily in fine dining, so the food is approached with that mindset. I hope people will leave surprised at the quality of the product and with a sense of fulfillment.”
What He Misses Most
Galbraith did not limit himself to a single activity during his CBA career, trying soccer and high jumping during his first two years, and joining the academic team as an upperclassman. He notes the impact that Dr. Koch (now Father Koch) had on him and his teammates, during the countless hours the academic team spent with “the Doc” preparing for interscholastic competitions both locally and as far away as Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Like most alumni, Galbraith misses the camaraderie of the Academy, something that he hopes current students don’t take for granted. “That was one of the great things about the school,” he said. “You could be friends with everyone in your class. There wasn’t a clique culture like other high schools.”
How the Academy Prepared Him
Looking back, Galbraith is grateful for CBA’s academic rigor, laughing now about being “crushed” by the AP classes he took. Most important, he notes, is how well the Academy prepares students not just for college, but for life. He himself still relies on life lessons he learned in Lincroft.
“When I look back, it may have seemed tough at the time, but it really did prepare me for college, and the world beyond,” he said. He is convinced that his CBA courses and activities, along with the influence of his teachers and coaches, contributed to his success both in college and in his career. He is convinced that the “CBA atmosphere” is one that breeds success no matter the path the individual student decides to pursue.
Galbraith circles back to his desire to “cook with his own voice,” a determination and personal confidence built at the Academy and carried on through a rewarding and ever-developing career.
Keeping In Touch
Galbraith welcomes the CBA community to his new restaurant in Philadelphia and hopes that he’s able to one day host a CBA event at Bar Hygge.