Chicago Chef News
The restaurant industry is one of the most transient, with chefs pivoting around from kitchen to kitchen on a routine basis. With so much fluctuation and shakeups, the industry becomes a veritable Rubik's cube, with new chefs moving in to fill vacated voids as they arise. Just in the past couples weeks, Chicago has experienced a tidal wave of chef changes, from seamless promotions to pastry chef switches and unfortunate departures. Read on for some insight into Chicago's latest chef news:
Easily the most, uhh, scandalous news of late comes via Embeya. Recently, opening chef and part-owner Thai Dang was unceremoniously let go from the restaurant, which just so happens to be named after his childhood nickname. Pretty cold. The departure was swift and abrupt, met with several kitchen walkouts from cooks out of solidarity. Embeya closed down to recuperate and appoint a new chef, while Dang was left to ponder his next move. Turns out when one doors swings shut in your face, another golden opportunity presents itself. Now Dang and his wife, Danielle, are working towards their dream of opening their own restaurant, an authentic Vietnamese concept called Haisous. Not much is known about Haisous yet, still in the very early stages, but you can rest assured with Dang at the helm it will raise the bar on Vietnamese cuisine in Chicago.
Back at Embeya, the restaurant pulled a rather surprise move by hiring Mike Sheerin as the replacement chef. Sheerin has already been hard at work on a casual dumpling spot in Hyde Park called Packed, so now he'll be double-dipping with this full-time gig in the West Loop. After clocking time and amassing acclaim at Blackbird, Trenchermen, and Cicchetti, Sheerin has definitely proven his well-rounded mettle as a chef, so it will be interesting to see how he maneuvers in a contemporary Asian setting and what changes he instates.
Now on to news less awkward. Pastry chefs have been switching around at a rapid rate these days. The start of it happened a couple months back when Meg Galus exited NoMI Kitchen for BOKA. NoMI just recently announced her replacement, and it looks to be Greg Mosko, lauded longtime pastry chef at North Pond. Kevin McCormick took over at North Pond. Meanwhile, Kymberli DeLost stepped down as pastry chef at Mindy's HotChocolate to do triple-duty as pastry chef for The Gage, The Dawson, and Acanto. With such a diverse pantheon of pastry programs — haute Irish and British at The Gage, Italian at Acanto, and eclectic at The Dawson — it will be interesting to see how adept DeLost is at wearing so many hats.
Promotions are always nice news to report. The restaurant group behind The Bristol just appointed Sean Pharr as executive chef, following stints at sister spots Balena and Formento's. The promotion was a seamless one considering chef Chris Pandel needed to concentrate on the restaurant group's next project, a Fulton Market steakhouse. This frees up Pandel to get that restaurant off the ground while Pharr runs the daily dealings at The Bristol.
Lastly, legendary Fulton Market mainstay moto has seen some staff changes lately as well. Following pastry chef Claire Crenshaw's departure for the Loews Chicago Hotel and Rural Society, chef Richie Farina is leaving to eventually work on his own restaurant. In his stead comes Chris Anderson. Farina is offering a "greatest hits"-type tasting menu as his final sendoff before leaving, featuring dishes like his Cuban cigar and his maple breakfast dish.
- Matt Kirouac