Fresh Talent All Over Town at Chicago’s Hottest Restaurants
When much celebrated chef Martial Noguier left glamorous West Loop eatery one sixtyblue to head up Sofitel’s French-focused Café des Architectes last fall, the local dining community was abuzz. What was to become of the restaurant he helped launch more than 10 years ago? And who could possibly replace such a talented chef who put the stylish eatery on the map once the celebrity appeal of co-owner Michael Jordan wore off?
The answer was Michael McDonald, a Charlie Trotter protégée, who’s also worked with the likes of Jean Joho, Nobu Matsuhisa and Gray Kunz. McDonald flipped Noguier’s script, transforming the menu
for the changing economic times by adding more budget-friendly bites, including daily three-course deals for $32 and the Thursday night signature burgers offered for $4. One sixtyblue’s plushy
lounge has never been busier.
To his credit, Noguier’s put new life into the cuisine and scene over at Café des Architectes, which had only been getting the mostly Euro business crowd for lunch and dinner. Though he focused on a more formal menu over at one sixtyblue, Noguier toned down the offerings in his new home at the crimson-hued café. Notably, the market-fresh menu for the executive lunch crowd (which is extended to 5:00 p.m.!) gives him the chance to create whimsical dishes from produce he scouted out at the Green City Market. Hyde Park native Renee Everett is the third chef in less than a year to take over the kitchen at Park 52, but something tells us this is the best fit owner Marc Brooks’ has found yet. The former chef for the Gibsons Restaurant Group(Gibsons Steakhouse, Hugo’s Frog Bar, Luxbar, Quartino) and Mike Ditka’s Restaurant specializes in seafood and unique fish dishes, which will be a nice upgrade from the typical casual American fare on the menu now.
Popular chef-driven Bravo series “Top Chef” made a star out of Radhika Desai, so it was no surprise when she left exotic Wicker Park spot Between Boutique Café & Lounge for greener pastures. Replacing her is Noah Sandoval, the past sous chef at nationally recognized Verbena restaurant in Richmond, Va., who’s keeping the small-plates format, but transitioning the global dishes to more American-inspired eats. Shareable hits include a pork belly that’s drizzled with a mustard demi glaze and Ahi tuna accompanied by Bay scallop ceviche.
New 312 Chicago chef Luca Corazzina had some big
shoes to fill when long-time chef Dean Zanella left last
fall to pursue his own venture.
A former chef at Vivo and Prosecco, Corazzina has made
quite a name for himself as he specializes in Northern Italian
fare he learned to cook from his mother. Seasonal and fresh
ingredients, plus a bar menu that’s idea for budget-conscious
after-work crowds, are helping to make 312 Chicago new all over again.
Over at Chaise Lounge, Executive Chef Cary Taylor is the second chef to helm the kitchen since it opened in 2007. The clubby Bucktown spot got an immediate upgrade, as he immediately overhauled the menu with more seasonal, approachable, American-focused dishes. And no wonder. His background includes stints at the likes of Blackbird, Trotter’s to Go, Charlie Trotter’s, Avenues and the now-shuttered Ambria. House-cured meats, the signature crab cakes and a tasting menu of delightful bites like fried-green tomatoes, spicy scallops and pulled pork hot buns have now made Chaise a rising star in the neighborhood.
John Manion first gained prominence as owner/chef at Mas, a hip Nuevo Latin
nook in Wicker Park, then he took a few consulting gigs creating upscale pub
fare at Old Oak Tap, Motel, Relax and the short-lived Rockstar Dogs. So it
made perfect sense when he made the move to become Goose Island Pub’s
With the current trend of food and beer pairings, Goose Island was a natural fit, and its menu desperately needed a makeover. Highlights on his new menu include Swan Creek pork sliders, soft-shell BLT and a number of burgers, including a Cabot cheddar burger with fried egg.
Kendal Duque put Sepia
in a national spotlight with his rustic French-American menu, and gained accolades from critics everywhere. So it was no surprise that he’d eventually leave to pursue his own dream of opening a restaurant. A venue revered for both its dishes and décor needed a chef who’d fit in easy, and Andrew Zimmerman is perfect for the role.
Previously, Zimmerman worked in the kitchens of NoMi, del toro and MOD. He picks up where Duque left off, blending rustic and contemporary dishes such as Swan Creek rabbit with buttermilk biscuits and duck confit with fig-black pepper jam flatbread. Tucked away on the lobby level of Peninsula, Avenues gained national recognition behind former chef Graham Elliot Bowles, who left in 2008 to pursue his dream of opening his own eatery in River North.
His replacement, Curtis Duffy, who worked alongside Grant Achatz of the famed Alinea years ago at the now-shuttered
Trio, immediately added his signature, mostly seafood-focused items to the menu.
Operating a high-end resto in a challenging economic environment has forced Duffy to re-concept the degustation-only experience. For the first time ever, guests can now order Avenues’ seasonally influenced menu a la carte.