Brandon Blumenfeld, exec chef at Scratch F&B
Chef Brandon Blumenfeld, Scratch F&B. Photo by Tom O'Connor

Now in its second year, Troy Hill’s Scratch Food & Beverage is popular for its menu that’s comfortable and creative while maintaining an emphasis on local, seasonal and “scratch-made” elements. Diners get a high-level culinary experience delivered in a relaxed, approachable way.

Owner Don Mahaney and his team have been cultivating this concept while carefully making an effort to be a welcoming and inclusive addition to the neighborhood. Some considered the historic Troy Hill location an unlikely spot for something too new or different. Mahaney has worked to fit in as a good neighbor, keeping Scratch F&B involved in the local community. Now he’s doing some local sourcing at the top, turning to a fourth generation Pittsburgher to help him hone his vision.

Scratch F&B’s new executive chef, Brandon Blumenfeld, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu University in Miami. He brings a wide range of culinary experience from around the world, including working in the very busy and popular New York City kitchens of Franny’s in Brooklyn and Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village. Prior to his East Coast gigs, he had intensive gardening and farming stints at a Japanese biodynamic farm near Santa Cruz, California.

Between experiences on both coasts, Blumenfeld would frequently return to Pittsburgh, reconnecting with his family.

“I feel like I always knew I wanted to come back to live and work in Pittsburgh,” says Blumenfeld. “The restaurant and food scene didn’t exist when I was younger, but every time I would come back I would see all the new changes” he adds.

Locally, Chef Blumenfeld worked alongside Chef Justin Severino at Cure and was the opening Sous Chef at Morcilla. During some travel in Asia in 2016, he gained international experience working as a cooking apprentice in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Blumenfeld grew up in Squirrel Hill where he attended Taylor Allderdice High School. His interest in working with fresh produce can be traced to visits to the East Liberty farmer’s market, where he would shop with his grandparents who lived nearby.

“Picking your produce outside in the farmer’s market seemed like a much smarter option to me. We would buy vegetables for dinner and find ways to incorporate the freshness into every meal. It was an important experience for me,” says Blumenfeld who credits his grandparents for having a positive influence on his life.

“Now I see the importance of supporting farmers around the city to maintain the sustainability of their farms,” says Blumenfeld noting, “It’s important for people to support farms through CSAs [farm shares], but it’s also vital that restaurants step up and buy from them, too, sourcing what they use through local farms.”

Scratch Food & Beverage. Photo by Christine Emilie
Scratch Food & Beverage. Photo by Christine Emilie.

At Scratch F&B, Blumenfeld will be working with the team to maintain the restaurant’s local sourcing initiatives. In addition to a food menu built around products from local farms, the bar program keeps local distilleries in the spotlight with craft cocktails and featured beer bottled and brewed within a 311-mile radius of its Troy Hill location.

Some of the new offerings Blumenfeld is bringing to the menu include dishes like: porchetta with crushed potato, egg and Aleppo honey; spring vegetable curry (English peas, asparagus, zucchini, new potatoes and radish served over farro); grilled octopus with brown butter koji purée, fried chickpeas, scallions, lemon, chili oil and lots of fresh herbs; and beef fat brioche with fresh horseradish and sea salt. According to the chef, the menu will continue to change seasonally with regular specials as ingredients become available through the year.

Scratch F&B plans to expand its offerings with a late-night menu and Monday dinner service.

Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.