The Sound Bite Heralds Cajun-fusion Joint’s Debut

Chef Julian Phillips is cooking up mouthwatering blackened chicken.
Chef Julian Phillips is cooking up mouthwatering blackened chicken.

A newsman-turned-chef and his jazz singer wife are cooking up a plan to make blackened chicken as popular as Buffalo wings with the Port Washington couple’s new Manhattan restaurant, The Sound Bite.

The name is a play on the term for a short quote in TV news and the fact that the restaurant also regularly hosts live music. Chef Julian Phillips, a former Emmy award-winning journalist, picked the décor and menu with news puns aplenty, but the headline is his unique blend of Cajun, Southern and Italian cuisine.

“I’ve been working on this idea for a quite a while,” he says, while prepping for the lunch crowd on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. “I started to experiment with the fusion of Southern and Italian and blackening techniques, and voila – here we are.”

Phillips is perhaps best known for a stint as co-host of the Fox & Friends Weekend morning news show from 2002 to 2006. More recently, he served as host of Arise Review, a weekly political talk show on the Arise News Network. But these days, Phillips has traded the newsroom for the kitchen, where his new focus is making mouths water.

“Of course I miss it,” he says of his former career. “If you’re a journalist, it’s hard not to be in the mix. But right now, I’m just enjoying blackening up wings, plain and simple.”

Along with his successful news career, Phillips has roughly three decades of culinary experience, working as a private chef on occasion, catering events, and, of course, cooking for family and friends. He’s also the house chef for Hopscotch Air, a private airline that offers flights up and down the East Coast. Despite his busy schedule, Phillips says he always makes time to cook at home.

“Everybody’s got to eat, right?” he says.

Phillips has a talented partner in the new endeavor: his wife and accomplished jazz singer Barbara King. He says it’s been a longtime dream for them to open a restaurant together that celebrates their two passions: media and jazz. Along with a soulful menu, The Sound Bite offers live jazz and blues performances three nights a week, with King herself getting up on occasion.

“We’re one of the only spots in Hell’s Kitchen that has live music,” says Phillips over the clatter of a busy kitchen. Things were beginning to pick up as guests began to arrive at the 1,600-square-foot restaurant.

“Well, hello. How are you?” Phillips says abruptly when he spots a regular. “Now, how do you manage to look so good in all this rain? Not a drop on you.”

Although he’s enjoying the steep learning curve, Phillips says opening a restaurant in New York City is no easy task.

“It’s been a somewhat daunting and eye-opening experience,” he adds.

The Sound Bite’s signature wings are coated with a blend of blackening spices and then seared in a hot cast-iron skillet before finishing off in the oven. They’re served with an assortment of “Southern-meets-Italian” sauces including a puttanesca, Cajun remoulade, and garlic pesto. Another staple on the menu is chef Phillips’ Southern smoked mac and cheese that can be topped with andouille sausage, blackened chicken, shrimp, lobster or alligator sausage.

The cocktail list, designed by nutritional biochemist and author Alex Ott, continues to play on the news theme with drinks such as The Live Shot, The Crash & Burn, The Headliner, and The Kicker.

Eventually, Philips says he’d like to open up another location on Long

“That’s my dream,” he adds. “I’d love to have a nice waterfront restaurant on the Island.”

The Sound Bite is located at 737 9th Ave. in Manhattan. They can be reached at 917-409-5868 or thesoundbiterestaurant.com