Middle Child Clubhouse’s Edwin De La Rosa named a Rising Star Chef

De La Rosa

Restaurant industry magazine StarChefs recently announced its 2024 Philadelphia Rising Stars, and to celebrate, the Rising Stars Restaurant Week is coming to the City of Brotherly Love from Feb. 28 through March 13.

The weeklong culinary celebration will give Philadelphians and visitors a chance to taste local greatness from Philly’s 2024 Class, which includes 19 professionals, recognized “for exceptional food and drinks and their ability to lead, inspire, and support their local communities,” StarChefs Managing Partner Will Blunt said in a statement. “Few hospitality communities are as close-knit as Philadelphia. We witnessed proud cooking and creating, with an eagerness to share and support one another.”

Among this year’s honorees is Edwin De La Rosa — a local chef who has successfully merged his Dominican Republic-past with his Philadelphia present with grace and guile. Then there is the matter of taste: De La Rosa’s Duck Fat Cubano is one of Philly’s heartiest, homey meals.

De La Rosa is perhaps best known for his current work at Middle Child Clubhouse, however, the De La Rosa family migration from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. started in the 1990s and continued through Massachusetts and Eastern Pennsylvania until landing in Philadelphia.

After losing his father to suicide, De La Rosa says he was “feeling trapped” and in search of a fresh place to ground himself and “relearn what the dream of my immigrant parents was.” Philadelphia became his new home.

“I had a huge identity crisis; didn’t start in food, professionally, but it was the one thing at home where there was the least amount of conflict and the happiest of memories,” says De La Rosa.

Working at Suraya in Frankford and Honeysuckle Provisions in West Philly before coming to Middle Child Clubhouse, De La Rosa learned to manage restaurant teams and cook beyond “Eurocentric” menus.

“Suraya and Honeysuckle made me more personable, to be front-facing as a chef, to be a storyteller, and to be more confident in who I am as a Black man, a Latino and an immigrant,” he said. “I didn’t have to mold myself… I could just be.”

It is that sense of storytelling that allowed De La Rosa to detail his heritage through the American menu of Matt Cahn and Middle Child.

“I communicated to Matt that I wanted to use Middle Child as a platform to tell the story of many cultures that informed me,” says De La Rosa. “If you are intentional with your process, with what you put on the plate, diners become curious, become more receptive, and ask questions about a dish… about my journey as a chef and a human being.”

For all of the cultures that influence and represent De La Rosa “though their different lenses”, undoubtedly it is the Dominican Republic inspiration, and that of his family, that presents the greatest, most personable tastes on the Middle Child menu.

“Olivia’s Buttermilk Pancakes was the first dish I put on the menu there,” he said. “My wife was pregnant, I was becoming a first-time father and I wanted to create something that paid homage to my mother, my wife and my daughter. When you taste the honey butter that relates to this remedy my mom made me when I was sick – honey, citrus, cinnamon sticks, onion and watercress. That’s a comfortable nostalgic feeling for me.”

The Middle Child favorite, Duck Fat Cubano, was his dad’s favorite sandwich.

“After my daughter was born, I questioned everything about what it meant to be a father, and hoped that when I became a dad, that he would be here to help me – that Cubano is a way to keep him alive for me, keep us attached. I think he is looking down on me, proud of the man I have become.”

Keeping attached to his Philadelphia family of fellow chefs and Middle Child collaborators, De La Rosa says being a 2024 Rising Chef is a platform that elevates chefs to the next level while empowering communities.

“I often deal with imposter syndrome, so I am happy to be a part of all this,” he said. “I’ve been asking why they made me a Rising Star chef, and I think that they see the vulnerability in the food that I make, and feel the level of care that I have toward food, our team and our community.”