Eight months after joining White Oak Tavern & Inn, chef Tom Van Lente is on the move again. Van Lente, a former chef de cuisine a hipster taco haven Big Star, is leaving the DePaul-area restaurant to consult over at the Drury Lane Theatre and Conference Center. Van Lente's grandfather Tony De Santis, founded the theatre chain 33 years ago. He will stay on for one more week and leave White Oak on July 6.
Van Lente will help the Drury Lane staff update technology and kitchen systems to make operations more efficient. Van Lente says there aren't any negatives to the move, as he knew family responsibility always loomed and that his kitchen experience was needed at the theatre. He grew up working at the Drury Lane kitchen in suburban Oakbrook Terrace before entering the restaurant world: "There's no smoke and mirrors, this is family business; I need to make damn sure it's around for another 33 years, at least."
White Oak owner John Manilow said they'll soon have an announcement on what they'll do after Van Lente's departure. He was the restaurant's second chef. Alinea vet John Asbaty opened the White Oak in December 2014, but then left in August. Manilow provided this statement: "It is bittersweet to announce the departure of Chef Tom Van Lente at White Oak Tavern & Inn. Tom has been a terrific asset to our team, and we are very proud of his work in bringing our vision of a neighborhood tavern to life."
Van Lente didn't think his transition to Drury Lane would happen this quickly. He praised the Manilows, saying he's proud of what they accomplished in his brief time. But this won't be the least Chicago's restaurant world hears from Van Lente. It's not like his time as a consultant will make him forget how to cook. And he's not moving to the suburbs.