Steve Poses had just finished his training and was all set to begin his two-year tenure as a member of the Peace Corp in Brazil—until a conversation with a trainer within the program changed his mind. The trainer believed, as Poses himself later came to believe, if you really want to create social change in the world—the best place to start was in your own country. So in 1968, the fresh University of Pennsylvania grad returned back to Philadelphia, where he channelled his passion for social change into marching against the Vietnam War and working for the nuclear de-escalation organization now known as Peace Action.
But unlike other children of the Age of Aquarius, Poses held Jane Jacobs’ urban planning tome The Death and Life of Great American Cities in equal reverence with Julia Childs’ Mastering The Art of French Cooking. From a busboy and glass-polisher at a French restaurant in Rittenhouse Square, Poses worked his way up to eventually open his first restaurant, Frog, in 1973.
“How do people to do something more than yell at their television?” asks Poses. “That, I think, is the challenge.”
“It combined my love of food and belief that done right, restaurants create a sense of community,” Poses says, “for within the restaurant, within the neighborhood, within the area of the city that you’re in.” A couple years later, Poses cemented his status as a pioneer of the Philadelphia restaurant renaissance with The Commissary, a cafeteria-style eatery that featured sushi and communal dining spaces long before the two were en vogue.
Despite minor stints like volunteering for Obama in 2008, for a number of years Poses was “civically active, though not so politically active.” This all changed with the 2016 Presidential election. Like for many Americans, Poses took it as a wakeup call to take a more active role in his government. The result of this political reawakening was the launch last year of PA Blue Victory Fund, and next week’s Reflections on Our First 100 Days–A Celebration With Our Newly Elected State Legislators.
After (almost) 100 days in office, state legislators Maria Collett, Tina Davis, Danielle Friel Otten, Liz Hanbidge, Katie Muth, Jenn O’Mara, Melissa Shusterman, Joe Webster, Wendy Ullman and Mike Zabel will join a panel moderated by The Citizen’s Larry Platt at The Franklin Institute on April 1st. The fundraiser is hosted by PA Blue Victory Fund, as well as Turn PA Blue and Change PA.
The discussion is intended to be a back-and-forth between audience and legislators, many of whom are first-time office-holders, who will—true to the event’s name—reflect on what the experience has been like so far, what they’ve done and hope to do, and what it’s like being a political minority in Harrisburg.
The event will also look at the not-too-distant future. “They got elected in 2018, but for many of them, they started at some level in 2017. And so, we’re trying to replicate and reenforce the importance of 2019, even though the next state election isn’t until 2020,” says Poses. “Our short term goal is to get [the public] focused not on 2020, but where in the five-county area do you need to work in 2019 so those efforts will be supportive of what you’re trying to do in 2020.”
Previously, Poses organized last September’s The Blue Plate Special, also at the Franklin Institute, in which 50 local chefs were handpicked to provide the cuisine while donors mingled with the Southeastern PA candidates they were supporting. That event also benefited the PA Blue Victory Fund, which he start with a lawyer he met while they were volunteering for Obama, Steve Springer. Monday’s panel will be followed by cocktails and food provided by Frog Commissary.
“How do people to do something more than yell at their television?” asks Poses. “That, I think, is the challenge. Put your money where your mouth is.”
Monday, April 1, 5:30 pm-8:30 pm, tickets $125-$250, The Franklin Institute, 222 North 20th St.