We started Frog Commissary at Home because we want to focus our resources on giving back. We are donating copies of At Home by Steve Poses to libraries, schools, culinary programs and nonprofit organizations. We are also donating a quarter of all proceeds from purchased copies of the cookbook to support underserved students in Philadelphia culinary education programs.
At Frog you always felt there were real people in the kitchen, people who liked to eat and liked to cook and hoped you enjoyed their efforts. It was friendly and fun and the growing sophistication of the food and wine cellar more than compensated for the Age-of-Aquarius atmosphere.
— FOOD & WINE Magazine
At the same time, Frog Commissary at Home is an archive of sorts for Frog Commissary history and a place for our community to reminisce about the beloved restaurants and recipes that imprinted Philadelphian palates for decades. If you’re a Philadelphian of a certain generation, chances are you met a date over housemade pasta or a heart tart and fresh brewed Commissary blend coffee at The Commissary, or you attended an event at The Franklin Institute, or you or someone you know has The Frog Commissary Cookbook on their shelf. Our founder Steve Poses likes to say that cooking is a team sport, and together with thousands of wonderful employees over the course of nearly five decades we have redefined dining and catering in Philadelphia. It’s not always easy to be ahead of the game, and we knew from our first days as a tiny storefront eatery that we were doing something exciting and innovative. Even as we regularly produced 1000-seat galas, we marveled at how long we were able to last among the giants in the industry, all the while staying true to our roots as a family-owned local business.
With a few cookbooks, a six-burner stove and a passionate belief in the potential for restaurants to enliven city life, Steve Poses opened Frog, a groundbreaking restaurant at 16th and Spruce streets in Philadelphia in 1973. Fusing cuisines with dishes like a pan-Asian Three Noodle Appetizer and Poached Salmon Scallops with Sorrel Beurre Blanc, Frog ignited interest in Center City dining. When its success outgrew its tiny footprint, Frog moved to a bigger location in 1979, with a more elegant concept, including an Eating School for exploring new flavors and reading about food.
In the meantime, in 1977, Poses opened The Commissary, an informal eatery with a cafeteria on the first floor and a sit-down restaurant on the second floor. In 1979, The Commissary added one of Philadelphia's first upscale takeout options, The Market at The Commissary, and a Piano Bar. During its heyday, The Commissary was one of the highest grossing restaurants in America, serving as many as 1500 people a day in its 100 seats. With bouillabaisse salad, caviar, and Thai beef curry, The Commissary democratized high-end, international dining, introducing many Philadelphians to cuisines they’d never before experienced with reasonable prices. Before Frog and the Commissary opened most locals utilized restaurant dining (typically a steakhouse or French restaurant) for special occasions and business lunches unless it was a lunch counter or Horn and Hardart. Indeed, Frog and the Commissary achieved many firsts for Center City Philadelphia restaurants in the 1970s, including:
Frog was the first restaurant to offer wines by the glass.
Frog was the first to offer freshly ground coffee—both regular and decaffeinated and freshly brewed decaf. Frog Commissary made its own blend of coffee beans, Mocha Java and French Roast. Before this, the options typically consisted of Maxwell House and the only decaf available was instant, i.e., Sanka.
The Commissary was the first restaurant to offer sushi (outside of Japanese restaurants Genji in West Philadelphia and Sagami in Collingswood, NJ).
The Commissary had the first espresso bar.
The Commissary had the first made-to-order fresh pasta bar. In fact, the very word “pasta” was exotic considering most Philadelphians typically had only been exposed to spaghetti, and San Georgio at that.
The Commissary was the first restaurant to make fresh ice cream.
I didn’t know you shouldn’t combine green curry with French béchamel, but we had no boundaries," says Poses, who remembers wondering: ”Would anyone come?" They would, indeed, as Frog famously helped jump-start Philadelphia’s restaurant renaissance with casual style and an embrace of international flavors that would reshape the city’s once conservative dining scene for decades to come.
— THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2021
Poses went on to open other restaurants under his Shooting Star Inc. umbrella, including 16th Street Bar and Grill, City Bites, USA Cafe, and two locations of Eden.
Building on the success of Frog and The Commissary, the catering division was created in 1976 to bring the restaurants’ distinctive food and bold flavors to special events. It quickly built a reputation for its stunning creativity yet also made favorites like Commissary Carrot Cake available to larger crowds. Frog Commissary Catering was responsible for feeding crowds at legendary events like the Jambalaya Jam on Penn’s Landing, the Beaux Arts Balls and the annual Franklin Institute awards. Notable guests have included Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Luciano Pavarotti, Jacqueline Onassis, Barbara Bush, Ethel Kennedy, Bill Gates, Lily Tomlin and Liza Minnelli, and Kermit the Frog!
In 1994, the company opened Noah's Kitchen, a kosher catering division and moved its headquarters to the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. Noah’s Kitchen was named for Poses’ son, now a celebrated chef in New York City. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the company collaborated with local arts institutions to offer better eating options. In 1997, contracts included the Bravo! eatery at the Academy of Music and Bravo! At the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, where a changing lineup of concession stands included Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean, barbecue, pan-Asian and Cuban options. 2006 saw the debut of Frog at the Yard dining hall at the Urban Outfitters headquarters at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Over the years, Frog Commissary Catering imagined, planned and executed more than 20,000 bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, parties and galas, as well as dining experiences at some of the city’s major cultural institutions. As the longstanding in-house service provider for The Franklin Institute, Frog Commissary, under the leadership of Christina Sterner, expanded to dining services as well as catering all events held at the venerable science museum from 2010 until the company’s closure there in 2020. The company saw a decade of extraordinary growth until its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related impact on the hospital industry in 2020.
ABOUT STEVE POSES
As a young graduate of University of Pennsylvania, Steve Poses launched a long, influential career in the food world when he opened Frog in Philadelphia in 1973. Inspired by the writings of Jane Jacobs and his own passion for international flavors, Poses saw the potential for restaurants to shake up a staid dining scene and transform city life. The Commissary, an upscale cafeteria style eatery, followed. Widely considered the father of Philly’s first dining renaissance, Poses earned a coveted spot in the first 50 Who’s Who of Cooking in America and in the 80s was honored as Pennsylvania Restaurateur of the Decade. Over the course of his career, Steve has created and operated over a dozen restaurants, including Frog, which on the occasion of Philadelphia Magazine’s 25th anniversary was named Philadelphia's Best Restaurant of the Past 25 Years. In addition, he has authored two bestselling books: The Frog Commissary Cookbook, which sold over 120,000 copies, and At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer's Guide to Cooking & Entertaining and the accompanying blog At Home by Steve Poses. Since retiring from the business, he founded the PA Blue Victory Fund. Recently merged with Change PA Poses is devoting his time to raising money and working for Democratic candidates and causes in Pennsylvania. His wife Christina Sterner has been CEO of Frog Commissary since 2009.
Christina Sterner is the President and CEO of Frog Commissary, Inc. With her arrival in 2009, Sterner brought 30 years of arts leadership experience to bear, transforming a family-owned food business with a rich cultural legacy in Philadelphia into a thriving, financially robust 21st-century company, while continuously improving its high standards for excellent dining experiences. Prior to joining Frog, Sterner worked as a producer and arts executive, honing her skills in creative collaboration, finance, marketing, and business development. For two decades Sterner previously served as CEO of Baryshnikov Dance Foundation, and Baryshnikov Productions, Inc., spearheading the creation and development of Baryshnikov Arts Center, and producing and overseeing Mikhail Baryshnikov's projects from White Oak Dance Project to negotiating licensed product, movie, real estate and restaurant deals. A board member of several organizations, she is also president of sternerprojects inc., a brain trust of arts executives assisting innovative artists and art managers in their work.