Julian Lippe added handmade pasta to the Stems & Skins menu in October 2020 | Photos by Ruta Smith

On a Whim

Stems & Skins executive chef Julian Lippe quickly climbed the ranks in the restaurant industry thanks in part to two influential kitchens, and he’s bringing what he learned to the Park Circle wine bar that’s becoming a dining destination, adding allure to a spot serving natural wines, classic cocktails and craft beers. 

You’ll still find the tinned seafood, cheese and charcuterie Stems & Skins patrons know and love, but these days, Lippe puts his skills on display with heartier plates like deconstructed seafood lasagna, seared brussels sprouts with miso and thyme butter, short rib agnolotti and more. 

“I think people are maybe starting to treat it more like a place to have dinner as opposed to a place to have an after-dinner drink, which I think is the goal,” Lippe said. “To be the evening and not the nightcap.” 

Lippe first realized his passion for cooking while attending Florida State University, and after graduating, the Florida-born chef moved to Philadelphia to work at a restaurant called Pennsylvania 6. 

“That was a raw-bar, steak-chophouse place,” said Lippe, who joined Pennsylvania 6 when he was just 23 years old. “That was my first sous chef position, which was way too early.” 

The now-30-year-old chef moved on to Philadelphia kitchen Vernick Food & Drink, where owner Greg Vernick helped Lippe reach new heights. 

“I would say that place is what took me to that next level of just cooking and understanding what that meant,” he said. “That’s kind of where I embraced the idea of trying to do things perfectly.” 

Lippe moved to Charleston in 2018, and his journey to Park Circle had one last important stop — FIG, where he worked on the line under executive chef Jason Stanhope. The acclaimed restaurant provided chefs the tools needed to eventually set out on their own, Lippe said. 

“It’s really organized, and you’re pushed really hard. I was fortunate enough to experience that at Vernick, so it wasn’t a total culture shock to get pushed like that,” Lippe said. “You’re surrounded by incredible cooks, you’re led by an incredible chef and everyone gets pushed to be the best version of themselves.” 

Last year, Lippe and his fiancée moved from downtown’s Eastside neighborhood to Park Circle on a whim, and he decided to look for work closer to his new home. 

“I’d heard about Park Circle, but I never came up here,” Lippe said. “I never got too much farther than Santi’s. Now, I don’t go further South than that — that’s my marker.”

“I made the decision to leave FIG, not with any animosity or anything. I just felt like I wanted to cook my own food, and the idea was to do private dining,” said Lippe, who ventured into Stems & Skins to pick up some shifts to supplement paychecks from the private dinners. At the interview, Stems & Skins co-owners Matt Tunstall and Justin Croxall told him they were looking for a new executive chef. 

Unprepared for this type of interview, Lippe recalls mentioning that he wanted to serve handmade pasta off the cuff — this blank canvas dish has become a staple on the dinner menu. 

Photo by Ruta Smith

“The pasta thing was just kind of something I mentioned when they interviewed me, and it’s kind of stuck,” he said. “People like them. It’s fun, it’s rewarding — I find it very cathartic to make.” 

Lippe praised the work of former Stems & Skins executive chef Greg Marks but says there’s “more fluidity” to the menu now. Tunstall agrees.  

“Bringing chef Julian on has completed our team and has helped propel us into our next phase,” he said. “Stems & Skins has always been a place to have a ‘snack’ and a great drink, pre- or post-dinner, in this neighborhood. Now, you can spend your entire evening with us.”