For the second edition of our series on the pre-restaurant lives of local culinary stars, we focused on women. What were these fantastic females doing before they got into hospitality? Here’s a look back at the early lives of seven well-known people in the Philadelphia restaurant world, complete with hot (and/or awkward) throwback pics.

Erin O’Shea


Alternate Universe Career:
Copy jock

Now: Chef and partner at Percy Street Barbecue (South Street).

Then: O’Shea grew up in Maryland, where early jobs included being a “salad girl” at an Annapolis restaurant. When she was 16, she moved to Paris with her parents and finished high school there, then moved back to attend college in the U.S. It wasn’t really for her, though — she started at both Loyola and Texas A&M and left each — and so she ended up working for several years in a Kinko’s near a NASA space center. One day she helped some scientists make photocopies that were captioned “search for life on Mars,” which led her to ask of them, “So, did you find life on Mars?” Told not to ask any more questions, she promptly took the scrap copies and sent them to a NASA conspiracy whistleblower, who posted them online and made them into national news. It was all traced back to O’Shea, who got fired, and moved back east. Having fallen in love with baking at home, she tried to get a job at a restaurant to pay her way through cooking school, but the chef told her to forget about that and learn on the job. After starting at the bottom, peeling onions for $2/hr., she eventually made her way to Philadelphia, where she started working for Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook at Marigold Kitchen, and eventually became their partner as Philly’s only female pitmaster. Follow on Twitter at @ErinOShea6.

Ellen Yin


Alternate Universe Career:
Healthcare executive

Now: Co-owner of High Street Hospitality Group, which operates Fork (Old City), High Street on Market (Old City), + bar (Rittenhouse) and soon-to-open High Street on Hudson (NYC).

Then: A native of Monmouth County, NJ, Yin was not your typical Penn economics major — she didn’t shy away from hands-on activities, like the “brutal,” 4-hour deep-sea fishing trip she had just completed in the photo at left, above. To put herself through college, she bartended at White Dog Cafe and also worked at Steven Horn Advertising on hospitality accounts. She got her first taste of the healthcare industry as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. After getting an MBA from Wharton, she worked in healthcare consulting, helped “a bunch of doctors” start an insurance company and then landed a job at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. In 1997, she left that career behind to open Fork, which is now as vibrant as any time during its 17-year run. Follow on Twitter at @ForkRestaurant.

Marcie Turney


Alternate Universe Career:
Textile designer

Now: Chef and co-owner of We Love 13th Street, which operates Lolita, Barbuzzo, Jamonera, Little Nonna’s, Grocery, Verde, Open House and soon-to-open Bud & Marilyn’s (all Midtown Village).

Then: Born in Wisconsin, Turney moved to the Poconos when she was 7 years old. Her field hockey skills led to a full scholarship to Temple’s Tyler School of Art, and she finally got a taste of urban life when she moved to Philadelphia to study graphic design there. Right then, computers were on the rise and graphic design was becoming an all-digital endeavor, something Turney wasn’t that into, so she sought out a different career — in the kitchen. After attending the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, she rose to executive chef and held the top spot at Audrey Claire, Twenty Manning and Valanni. In 2004, she and Valerie Safran took a chance and opened Lolita on still-seedy 13th Street, which the partners have since helped transform into a hopping restaurant destination. Follow on Twitter at @marcieturney.

Valerie Safran


Alternate Universe Career:
Junior high teacher

Now: Co-owner of We Love 13th Street, which operates Lolita, Barbuzzo, Jamonera, Little Nonna’s, Grocery, Verde, Open House and soon-to-open Bud & Marilyn’s (all Midtown Village).

Then: Miami’s siren call (plus the desire to escape a teaching job) pulled this Lancaster, Pa. native down to Florida, where she worked three jobs that each had underpinnings of Safran’s future career. Her part-time position at Crate & Barrel pleased her because she loved housewares, although she never imagined she’d open her own boutique. On the restaurant side, she waited tables and catered food for photo shoots in South Beach — a neighborhood had just undergone a transformation from a dirty, crime-ridden strip to hot spot. The change was in large part thanks to developer Tony Goldman, who would soon do the same for 13th Street in Philadelphia, with Turney and Safran as major players. Follow on Twitter at @valeriesafran.

Nicole Marquis


Alternate Universe Career:
Cutting-edge thespian

Now: Owner of HipCityVeg (Rittenhouse and University City), Charlie was a sinner (Midtown Village) and soon-to-open JoseJose (Rittenhouse).

Then: Marquis was born in Elkins Park and moved with her family to Lower Gwynedd Township, where she attended Wissahickon High. Her first restaurant job (and first job in general) came at age 15, when she started as a server at an Italian BYOB called Pandeli’s. She attended Temple and graduated with a double major in marketing and theater. She achieved a masters in theater from the California Institute of the Arts, where her emphasis was experimental classical drama (Shakespeare in a car, for example — see above). Traveling to perform burned her out, and she returned to Philly with a desire to focus on something other than herself. Already a vegetarian, she became manager at Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby’s Horizons, and realized that developing a vegan eatery could be a way to have impact on the environment and others’ health at the same time. She was inspired to take a patient advocacy job at preventative medicine organization Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and meanwhile fully developed the concept that would turn into HipCityVeg, which opened its first location in 2012. Follow on Twitter at @Charlie_was.

Kate Jacoby


Alternate Universe Career:
Urban sociologist

Now: Pastry chef and co-owner of Vedge (Wash West) and V Street (Rittenhouse).

Then: A self-professed “goody two-shoes,” Jacoby was president of her high school class, the star in the class play and captain of the varsity tennis team. It only took her three years to graduate from Georgetown with a double major in French and sociology. She first concentrated on the second subject, as she worked as a test coordinator for a HUD-sponsored housing discrimination investigation, and then went back to the first, moving to Paris to teach English. She only lasted one semester abroad, however, because she had begun working at the early incarnation of Horizons Cafe in Willow Grove, and had fallen in love with the restaurant business — and the restaurant owner, Rich Landau. Eventually, the two married and moved to Philadelphia to relaunch Horizons as a full-service restaurant. Follow on Twitter at @ChefKateJacoby.

Erin Wallace


Alternate Universe Career:
Fine art painter

Now: Owner of Devil’s Den (South Philly), Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery (Lafayette Hill) and Old Eagle Tavern (Manayunk).

Then: Wallace, who grew up in Baltimore, spent her post-high school hours working for Glaubers candy company. Depending on the season, she’d either work in the stores or at the factory, where the production line was like something out of I Love Lucy. She moved to Philly to get a BFA from Moore College of Art & Design,  concentrating in projects that mixed photography and painting. During college, she started bartending at the Cherry Street Tavern, but she wasn’t yet a beer drinker — Captain and Coke was her glass-filler of choice. The bar was an early adopter of good beer, so Wallace did get a chance to try Dogfish Head and Stoudt’s, but it was really a trip to Austria that sealed her happy fate as a craft brewpub and craft beer bar owner. Follow on Twitter at @BarrenHillTav.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation, including the membership program. She is a former food and...