Starting Feb. 1, Brian Runge will be leaving Graham Elliot as chef de cuisine to be replaced by Andrew Brochu, who has most recently been working at EL restaurant with Phillip Foss and will now be executive chef at GE. Elliot is making these changes to align with his tasting-menu only format and expanded wine cellar and continue to elevate the restaurant.
Brochu, who spent three years at Alinea before moving on to Pops for Champagne and Kith & Kin as exec chef at both, was the only guy for the position, according to Elliot.
"[Brochu is] someone I’ve watched over the years and I’ve enjoyed his food at Pops and Kith & Kin. When we first spoke we hit it off right away and had a good connection," Elliot said. "He’s the only guy in Chicago that could raise the level of the restaurant to where we want it to be, which is striving to four stars. It’s the first time since the opening of the restaurant that we went outside the restaurant and he’s the only guy in Chicago that can do this job."
Brochu is being joined by new general manager and sommelier Jamie Kluz. Kluz most recently served as sommelier and acting manager at Avenues at the Peninsula under Michael Muser before the restaurant shuttered. In addition, Merlin Verrier has been promoted to corporate chef and director of operations; he'll oversee the Chowtown partnership with Lollapalooza and the spring opening of Elliot's new West Loop bistro, G.E.B.
"The biggest thing is re-evaluating the whole company and with the opening of G.E.B. that Graham Elliot has to continue to be the jewel in the crown and be our flagship," Elliot said. "G.E.B. will focus solely on old world techniques and the craftsmanship of cooking while GE will be the opposite, focusing on more esoteric ingredients and more modern techniques."
As for Runge, Elliot said that after working at the restaurant for more than three-plus years, they are parting on great terms and that he is leaving to focus on family and personal reasons. Runge couldn't be reached for comment prior to press time.
Joe Campagna contributed reporting to this story.
Andrew Brochu [Photo: StarChefs]
UPDATE: Eater finally got to chat with Brian Runge who said that he is indeed leaving on a positive note. "I am about four weeks away from having a baby and that was the major push behind [my leaving]," he said. "I find it really important in my life and it may be my one and only child. I want to devote time to knowing him." Runge said he plans to take his paternity leave for a month or two and then wants to jump back into a kitchen. "I'm open to opportunities," he said. "Hopefully I can find something in the same sort of genre in the city."