Philadelphia caterer Kevin Hart has found a new calling — and himself – The Philadelphia Inquirer

It’s really a coincidence that The Hart of Catering has opened on the former site of a restaurant called Day by Day.
There’s rich symbolism in the fact that Kevin Hart opened his cafe and catering business in the Center City restaurant space that for four decades was Day by Day.
That’s how he lives his life.
Hart, 41, is recovering from drug and alcohol addiction — six years after what he said were 10 attempts at rehab, including time in jail and periods experiencing homelessness. “It’s been a battle for 17 years of my life. And then finally, thank God, I gave myself a chance and stopped the cycle. I saw the fork in the road and I just begged myself, ‘Please. Will you just try this other way?’”
His latest effort is The Hart of Catering, which opened in November at 21st and Sansom Streets, serving breakfast and lunch. Not only have neighbors begun to embrace the casual diner-like service and grab-and-go case (beneath a floral mural reading “one day at a time”), but last week he landed this year’s catering contract at Lombard Swim Club, a local fixture.
Hart said he “got stuck in the restaurant business” long ago, working his way up the ranks at a country club in Montgomery County near his home before “jumping around a little bit because of my problems.” He managed a steakhouse in King of Prussia, served tables elsewhere, pulled espressos at Starbucks. “When I’d have a little bit of sobriety, I had success at different places,” he said.
Ten years ago, Hart’s partner, Tim Judge, by then clean about two years, was going to school for addiction counseling because he “wanted to transition from the restaurant field into more of a 9-to-5,” Hart said.
“I figured, ‘Maybe I need to get more regular hours, too,’” said Hart, who started working for a Center City caterer. “I found the whole corporate catering thing just fit me.” Still, Hart struggled for several years before he turned the corner personally.
Soon after, Hart changed catering jobs and Judge, returned to the restaurant business. “I was making [the owners] a lot of money and then the pandemic happened,” Hart said. “Everything changed in our business, and about a year and a half ago, I decided I’m done working so hard for other people.”
Hart worked part time at La Provence in Ambler, where Judge is general manager. “I was just going to take some time off, maybe pick up one or two more shifts at the restaurant. My three biggest clients all asked me, when I told them that I was leaving, if I would please start my own thing.”
While looking for a catering kitchen, he stumbled on the former Day by Day. The dining room, and streetcorner visibility, lent itself to a cafe, so he took the plunge. Mornings, as the restaurant is serving breakfasts and prepping lunch, chef Tom Mahoney’s kitchen is pumping out orders for off-premises lunch clients and pastry chef Casey Kranz is making pastries. Karen Cisario, who worked for Day by Day owner Robin Barg for 28 years, recently signed on to work for Hart.
Judge, Hart’s partner of 17 years, helps with the books on his day off, and the two are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. “We really give each other the freedom to do what we need to do and just kind of be there,” said Judge, also 41.
Most important, Hart said, his business is hiring many employees who are in recovery, which he estimates is about half his staff. Sobriety is a challenge in the restaurant business, Hart said, and the mutual support is powerful.
Hart’s neighbors, some of whom confide their own struggles, are “constantly reminding me why I love doing this,” he said. “Quite frankly, I never thought that I would wake up and not obsess about drugs and alcohol all day long. I don’t live like that anymore.”
Hart and Judge have started two addiction recovery houses, including one that is trans- and gay-friendly. As they scrambled to open that one, a customer donated furniture.
Shortly after, Hart said, the customer’s daughter showed up at her front door, needing help with addiction. The customer “came in here crying and asked for me. We started talking and I linked her daughter to some meetings. I just had this feeling of ‘oh my God — this is what it’s about. It’s bigger than food. It’s about this connection.’”