A James Beard Award-winning chef is leaving New Orleans to open a restaurant in Chicago near the infamous Biograph Theater in Lincoln Park. Zach Engel, who last year won the Beard’s Rising Chef award, wants to open Galit early next year, according to a news release. Engel specializes in modern Israeli food.
The new restaurant’s menu will reflect Engel’s Jewish-American heritage, as well as GM and partner Andrés Clavero’s Cuban-Palestinian heritage. The two grew up in Florida and attended Tulane University in New Orleans. Clavero knows Chicago having worked at Nico Osteria in the Gold Coast.
Engel won the Beard Award last year for his work at Shaya, the acclaimed New Orleans restaurant. He’s taking over the former Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta space at 2429 N. Lincoln Ave. That’s just around the corner from the alley where FBI agents famously greeted bank robber John Dillinger way back in 1934.
The chef has already left Shaya restaurant and later this month he’ll leave his current job as culinary director at Pomegranate Hospitality Group. That’s the company formed by New Orleans chef Alon Shaya after Shaya split with Besh Restaurant Group. Shaya, a 2015 Beard winner for Best Chef: South, said he was fired after talking to a reporter about allegations of sexual misconduct within the company. He claimed BRG lacked adequate HR resources for misconduct victims and efforts to improve the workplace environment were “summarily rejected.” A scandal in which 25 former and current employees claimed sexual misconduct swept through Besh’s company last year. That news broke after a lengthy investigation by the Times-Picayune in which Shaya was quoted. Engel left Besh and followed Shaya to the new company.
A Facebook post by Pomegrante reads the company “could not be any happier and proud” of Engel, “one of the architects of our core values and mission.” Read the statement below.
Restaurateurs are investing in the area, near where Children’s Memorial Hospital was demolished. LA’s J. Fall group opened Nighthawk: AM last year and LA hot dog chain Dog Haus opened a nearby location this year. Locals are also waiting for Parson’s Chicken & Fish to open a second Chicago location in the neighborhood.
The Tribune first reported the story. Stay tuned for more details.