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The Restaurant Industry Personnel Shuffles Chicago Needs to Know, 2017

An ongoing log of industry chef and staff changes

Claire Smyth
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

December 21

BUCKTOWN— Royal Grocer & Co. has announced big changes to the kitchen four months after the restaurant opened at 2118 N. Damen Avenue. Opening chef Rob Shaner is out, as a spokesman said he departed to pursue new opportunities. Shaner’s line cook, David Noel, is the new chef. Noel’s experience includes working as a line cook at Elizabeth, and in Seattle at Ethan Stowell Restaurants. He was also the sous chef at the now-shuttered The Savoy in Wicker Park. It’s not the only change for the restaurant. They also have installed a curling/bocci outdoor rink on its patio. Customers can play for free.

FULTON MARKET— There’s a new executive pastry chef at Honey’s to help fill the void left by the departure of Kyleen Atonson, a Jean Banchet rising pastry chef of the year nominee. Honey’s has hired Claire Smyth. Smyth’s resume includes stints at Cicchetti and L20, according to a news release. She’s also worked a Telegraph Wine Bar, Reno Chicago, The Kitchen, and Found Kitchen & Social House. Smyth worked with new Honey’s executive chef Johnny Anderes at the Telegraph, Reno, and The Kitchen. Atonson has since moved on to Acadia in South Loop.

EVANSTON— Hearth Restaurant + Lounge has hired a new executive chef. Michael Elliot, who’s resume includes time at North Pond in Lincoln Park and Quince in Evanston, replaced John “Woody” Linton. Linton is remaining as a consultant.

September 14

ANDERSONVILLE— Appellation Wine Bar & Restaurant, the newest spot from the owners of Pastoral — the mini-chain of fancy meat and cheese fanatics with locations in Lakeview, The Loop, and inside Chicago’s French Market — has promoted Melissa Humphrey as sous chef. She has been cooking in Appellation’s kitchen for three months. Humphrey is also in charge of the marshmallows at XO Marshmallow Cafe, America’s only dedicated marshmallow cafe.

LOGAN SQUARE— Billy Sunday, the cocktail bar in Logan Square from Matthias Merges’ Folkart Restaurant Management, is looking for a chef de cuisine. Check out the job ad here.

MILLENNIUM PARK— There’s a new executive chef at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel near Millennium Park. Frank Mnuk will oversee the food and beverage at the property, which includes Filini, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, according to a news release. His resume includes working as executive chef at Bistro Bordeaux and Cite Restaurant.

RAVENSWOOD— There’s a new chef de cuisine at Michelin-starred Elizabeth Restaurant. Shannon Martincic comes over from the Pacific Northwest, as Iliana Regan said she hired her to help delegate the prolific chefs responsibilities. Regan also runs Kitsune, and she recent-launched a meal-kit service. Regan wrote this about her new chef: “She's extremely talented and we have a similar aesthetic and love the same sort of cuisine and food. We've been working well together and have good communication so I'm happy to have someone help me collaborate a little at Elizabeth and take a bit of ownership in the food. That seems to get the best results when I do have to step away.”

RIVER NORTH— Sable Kitchen & Bar continues to try to find its culinary identity in River North. The cocktail lounge inside the Hotel Palomar is again looking for an executive chef. They’ve placed an ad online. Shane Graybeal had filled the position since late in 2016 after leaving Bin 36 in West Loop, but vacated the spot earlier this year.

WEST LOOP— Honey’s has a new beverage director. The critical darling has brought in Gil Izaguirre, who formerly worked with Boka in Lincoln Park and at The Robey in Wicker Park/Bucktown. His new drinks include “Out With The Old” (Cana Brava rum, Plantation rum, Gran Classico, smoked paprika Demerara) and “Seed Money” (Rittenhouse rye, Cynar, seasonal fruit, Angostura, mint, lemon).

WEST LOOP— One Off Hospitality Group has a pair of new hires to announce. Melissa Romanos is the new head bartender & wine coordinator at The Publican. The Boston native’s resume includes stints at Nico Osteria in Gold Coast, plust RPM Italian and RPM Steak in River North, as well as Big Star. One Off also named Derek Mercer as bar manager at Blackbird. Mercer started his culinary career in the kitchen, working at Spring in Bucktown and Osteria Via Stato in River North. He’s worked as a bartender at Blackbird and bar manager at Hot Chocolate in Bucktown.

Melissa Romanos
Courtesy of One Off Hospitality
Derek Mercer
Courtesy of One Off Hospitality

SKOKIE— Executive chef Armando Gonzalez is leaving Libertad. Gonzalez is one of the founders of the suburban Nuevo Latino restaurant, and spent six years there. He wrote, via email that he is pursuing “new adventures.” Owners Marcos Rivera and Omar Magana will continue to run the restaurant, and Gonzalez wished them continued success.

August 17

GOLD COAST— Former Rockit Bar & Grill/Rockit Burger Bar executive chef/partner Amanda Downing has a new gig, according to a news release. She’s the new chef de cusine at Bistronomic. A native of suburban Elgin, Downing also worked as executive sous chef at Michael Jordan’s One sixtyblue restaurant in West Loop and she knew and worked with owner Martial Noguier who also worked there. She’s already unveiled a new menu at the French restaurant. Dishes include a Nichols Fram Heirloom Tomato Salad, and gnocchi with Yukon Gold potatoes.

Used this Downing photo it’s new
Amanda Downing
Courtesy of Bistronomic

LINCOLN PARK— There’s two new hires at The Blanchard in Lincoln Park. They’ve brought on former Band of Bohemia opening chef de cuisine Kevin McMullen and hired gneeral manager Joseph Carnahan. Carnahan worked at many positions at The Gage, La Sirena Clandestina, and Carriage House. McMullen, who also cooked at The Brixton in Andersonville (and 2012 Eater Young Guns finalist) exited Band of Bohemia — Ravenswood’s Michelin-rated brewpub — under strange circumstances. The Blanchard’s executive chef, Ryan Burns, started six months ago.

RIVER NORTH— There will soon be a pastry vacancy at Boka Restaurant Group’s GT Fish & Oyster. Andrea Coté is leaving in September, according to a spokeswoman. They haven’t announced a replacement.

WEST LOOP— John Manion needs a new pastry chef. Marianna Reynolds has left El Che Bar and La Sirena Clandestina, as her last day was on Wednesday. Reynolds writes, via email, the she’s pursuing a career as a personal chef and as a pastry consultant. The Banchet nominee encourages customers to support local sugar shops, as Chicago’s pastry world needs the support.

August 3

THE LOOP— Rebecca LaMalfa, a former Top Chef contestant and pastry chef at Trencherman in Bucktown, is on the move again. LaMalfa joined Virgin Hotel Chicago in May 2016. She’s now moving to Detroit to work as the executive chef at Standby, according to Eater Detroit. The move’s not that suprising. Her husband, chef Thomas Lents, left Sixteen in the Trump Tower earlier this year to move to his hometown. A rep for the Virgin Hotel said they have a replacement but aren’t ready to make an announcement.

LOGAN SQUARE— Passion House Coffee, a roaster with a coffeeshop at 2631 N. Kedzie Ave., has created a unique title and filled the position. Michael “Kurtis” Kearby is the new director of coffee. Passion House’s founder Joshua Millman said Kearby’s responsibilities include source coffee, creating rapports with farmers, working with importers, and setting roast profiles.

Michael “Kurtis” Kearby
Courtesy of Passion House Coffee

SOUTH LOOP— South Water Kitchen has a new head bartender. Melissa Carroll worked at Spiaggia and the lobby lounge at the JW Marriott. Her new drink list consists of 13 cocktails. She replaces Dan Rook who departed for a Kimpton project in LA called Ever Bar.


980 North Michigan Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 280-2750 Visit Website

South Water Kitchen

225 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 236-9300 Visit Website

Virgin Hotel

203 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 940-4440

JW Marriott

151 W Adams St, Chicago, IL 60603 (312) 660-8200 Visit Website