After twice being named a James Beard Foundation Award finalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, Jenner Tomaska is out at Alinea Group’s decorated Next Restaurant. Owner Nick Kokonas confirmed the news today but wouldn’t give information on how or why the decision was made, only writing in an email that “the Alinea Group and Jenner Tomaska have parted ways.” Kokonas also wouldn’t say who has replaced him in the Next kitchen, and Tomaska is still listed as Next’s executive chef on its website, so the move appears to be sudden.
Tomaska was elevated to the high-profile position of executive chef at Alinea Group’s highly-acclaimed concept-changing Fulton Market restaurant in April 2016 following longtime chef Dave Beran’s exit for Los Angeles. While Beran has gone on to receive many accolades for his new restaurant Dialogue in Santa Monica, Tomaska has gotten many accolades too: the aforementioned 2016 and 2017 James Beard Award finalist nods and continuing the restaurant’s longstanding tradition of receiving four-star reviews from Phil Vettel in the Tribune while running many successful Next concepts over the last 30 months. This is the second major chef change in recent months at the Alinea Group, following Mike Bagale’s departure and Simon Davies’ promotion at flagship Alinea in late May.
Tomaska didn’t share much about his departure: “As of last week, The Alinea Group and I parted ways. Thanks for your inquiry,” an email from him read. Last weekend he was part of a pop-up at 90 Miles Cafe in Logan Square. Stay tuned if there are any more details on Tomaska’s departure and who Next’s next chef is.