This just in: Longtime sous chef Asher Miller has replaced Scott Irestone as the chef at Wolfgang Puck’s 20.21 in the Walker Art Center.
Randy Lewis, 2001 Food & Wine 10 Best award winner for his work at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates and Indigo restaurant, is taking over the stoves at Chetek, Wisconsin’s Canoe Bay, our five-state area’s only Relais & Châteaux property. That says a lot about Canoe Bay’s commitment to excellence. Lewis’s friend Lenny Russo told me that Lewis was sold on the resort because of the availability of so many fantastic farm-fresh ingredients in our neck of the woods. Nice.
But last time I checked, Santa Rosa, California had us over a barrel on produce and larder quality, which tells me that the Dombrowski’s made some compelling offers and persuasive arguments to land a chef of that caliber. I have stayed at Canoe Bay before, and it rocks; make your reservations now, and don’t wait ’til summer.
Mark McGraw hired Dan Grilz (Bayport Cookery sous and Trio (Chicago) alum) to take over the kitchen at Confluence. Mark will still be there when the restaurant is open, but since the restaurant is weekends only until summer, he has taken a position at Porter & Frye along with some of the best young talent in the city, all of whom are flocking to Steven Brown’s new restaurant to be a part of what I think will be the most important new restaurant in town. Had Restaurant Levain stayed open in 2007, Brown would have been a lock to earn a James Beard nomination, and based on what I have heard from Steven and from others associated with the project, this restaurant will be the eatery that he has always wanted to create. My gut tells me this is the year that Brown gets the national press he deserves, and we get a place to enjoy his stellar, sophisticated, and urbane take on food.
As McGraw told me, “I am absolutely amazed at the team that Steven has put together for this restaurant. I absolutely could not resist the temptation to jump on board; I have no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a very big deal. I know you know this, but he has never had an opportunity to create his own world like this before. Steven is an amazing person, and his ability to lead is something that this town has not seen in this business, at this level, period.”
McGraw also told me that he is upping the food quotient at Confluence and making it more food focused than it already was; that’s also saying something. I guess the ‘build-it-better’ vibe is in the air.
So what local restaurants could benefit from taking a cold, hard look at themselves and improving the food? Which eateries are close enough to making a real impact on the food world but whose food is just a notch below what would get them there? Who could benefit most from a Pimp My Kitchen makeover? Thoughts?
And for those looking to catch up on some fun reading:
Absinthe is legal! Here's a very informative and myth-busting article by Sarah Hepola from Slate.
Smoking ban begins—in FRANCE!
Here are some great graphics illustrating how the cheapest calories come from bad food, which is low in nutrition.
Hot Stuff! A notebook made with cocktail napkins; let the inspiration flow!