Where there's smoke there's fire because it turns out 312 Dining Diva's story yesterday story about some behind-the-scenes dust-ups at Graham Elliot has had much bigger repercussions: Andrew Brochu is out as executive chef of the River North restaurant.
Despite getting praise and three stars by Phil Vettel in a recent review at the Tribune, Brochu and the restaurant have parted ways and Graham Elliot himself is now overseeing daily operations at his namesake spot. He's being assisted by corporate exec chef Merlin Verrier and pastry chef Bryce Caron.
The news comes as a huge surprise as Brochu is an incredibly talented rising star on the Chicago culinary scene. When it was announced back in January that he'd taken over the kitchen and replaced Brian Runge, 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 [get] four stars."
So what went wrong? At this time, no one is really saying anything more than they've parted ways and they're going to release a new fall menu next week. Word on the street is that there was friction between Brochu and other cooks as well as some servers, but at this point, Eater hasn't confirmed that. Brochu has been unavailable for comment.
What does this mean for their shot at two Michelin stars? Only time will tell, but now that Elliot will be back in the kitchen and working on menu development, Verrier said there will be more open collaboration between everyone in the kitchen, much like when the restaurant first opened. Elliot may not be on the line every night, but "his presence in the restaurant will be much more than it has been," Verrier said. "It's great for everyone—kitchen staff, service staff and the customers. He's definitely a celebrity these days. It'll be exciting to have his presence back at the restaurant."
As for finding a replacement for Brochu? That's up in the air for now. "Now the plan is to have Graham and Bryce oversee all day to day operations," he said. "Andrew was the first person we ever brought in from outside to take over one of our outposts. We'll play it by ear now and see how it goes. It'll be a collaborative effort, which is what Graham Elliot started as. We'll still strive to be one of the best restaurants in the city."
Graham Elliot's full statement:
While Chef Andrew Brochu and I share a commitment to excellence in the kitchen, we've determined it mutually beneficial to pursue our professional objectives independently. Accordingly, chef Brochu has left Graham Elliot and I am now personally directing the restaurant's daily operations, assisted by chefs Merlin Verrier and Bryce Caron. We are excited to present our guests with a new autumn inspired menu next week, and wish chef Brochu continued success on his culinary journey.
· Acid Trip: In a Bid to Reach the Pinnacle, Graham Elliot Aims for Sharp Flavors [Tribune]
· Brian Runge Out, Andrew Brochu In as Exec Chef at Graham Elliot; Restaurant Gunning for 4 Stars [~EChi~]