Michael Schulson is the chef and restaurateur behind the Schulson Collective of restaurants whose imagination and vision have made him one of Philadelphia’s most successful hospitality professionals.
Today, Schulson is the owner of day-to-night destination Double Knot; the expansive Independence Beer Garden; Sampan and the adjacent Graffiti Bar; new-American hot spot Harp & Crown; contemporary izakaya Monkitail in Hollywood, Florida; and serves as chef-partner at Izakaya at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J., as well as recently acquired Osteria on North Broad. Additional culinary pursuits include the fine casual, high quality sushi boxes and counter omakase at DK Sushi in University City, and Schulson Catering based out of South Philadelphia. Today, Michael teams with his wife, Nina, in their efforts to expand the Schulson Collective.
Most recently, Schulson’s Monkitail was named Best Hotel Restaurant of 2017 by USA TODAY’s Readers’ Choice. Additionally, Harp & Crown was awarded one of the "most beautiful restaurants of 2016" by Eater National. Double Knot has also received numerous accolades including “three bells” from The Philadelphia Inquirer, three stars and the title of “2016 Best New Restaurant” from Philadelphia magazine, and was named one of the “15 biggest restaurant openings of 2016” by Zagat.
Schulson attended and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, working his way up the culinary chain of command in such acclaimed restaurants as New York’s Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and David Burke’s Park Avenue Café, and Philadelphia’s Le Bec-Fin and Susanna Foo.
Before setting out on his own, Schulson helmed legendary kitchens in New York City (Buddakan) and Philadelphia (Pod) and traveled to Japan. He eventually earned the ability to speak conversational Japanese following his stints in prestigious Tokyo kitchens, among them Spago and the Four Seasons Hotel.
“We named it [Double Knot] the Best New Restaurant In Philly in this year’s Best Of Philly issue. It took the highest spot of any of the new restaurants that made it onto this year’s 50 Best Restaurants list. I still use the broiled sea bass I had there as the standard against which I judge all fish dishes in Philadelphia (and not a single one has measured up).”
- PHILLY MAG, FOOBOOZ
In 2008, Schulson opened his first restaurant, Izakaya, a modern Japanese pub in Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. At Borgata, Schulson found himself among the likes of Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck, earning rave reviews and immense popularity. Schulson opened his second restaurant, Sampan, in 2009 in Philadelphia’s bustling Midtown Village. The contemporary Asian restaurant and bar was promptly named one of Bon Appetit’s “Top Six places to Taste Asian Fusion,” and Schulson was named one of Esquire’s “Chefs to Watch” in their annual restaurant issue soon after.
“As a student of Asian cuisine, I have always emphasized flavor over fat, and I’m proud to bring that approach to other culinary styles, as well.”
In summer 2014, Schulson took on his biggest project to date with Independence Beer Garden, a 20,000 square-foot open-air drinking and dining mecca steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia’s Independence National Historic Park. The massive, largely outdoor space quickly attracted huge crowds and became known as one of the city’s best places to enjoy a beer, a snack and fun with friends.
“From delicious bites to scenic views, Independence Beer Garden is looking to spruce up the summer. - But we can’t forget about the piece that brings the entire garden together: beer. And with a beer menu almost as big as the location itself, you might have a tough time narrowing things down.”
- Philly mag, FOOBOOZ
Schulson has starred in two original series, TLC’s “Ultimate Cake Off” and Style Network’s “Pantry Raid,” and has also appeared as a guest on “The Today Show,” “The View”, “Rachael Ray” and “Fox News” . He has been featured in a wide range of publications, from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Men’s Fitness, People, US Weekly, & Cooking Light.
Looking ahead, Schulson currently has three future projects in the works. Giuseppe & Sons, the Center City collaboration with the Termini family, will be opening this fall. The red gravy Italian restaurant will be located next to Harp & Crown but mimic the operation of Double Knot, with a cafe upstairs and a more refined restaurant below street level.
Following the opening of Giuseppe & Sons, Schulson and his team have also secured the space on 13th street right next to Double Knot and Sampan. This steak boutique will make you forget all about a conventional steakhouse. Projected opening is the end of 2018.
Next venture targets the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia with a concept that celebrates old-world Italian roots, lifestyle, food and décor. Projected opening is spring of 2019.