The chef at one of Chicago’s top brewpubs has left to join a hotspot from the city’s largest restaurant company. Nick LaCasse, who joined Half Acre Beer in 2015 as its North Center taproom added food service, is now working with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises as executive chef at Aba in Fulton Market, a company rep confirmed.
Aba was one of 2018’s biggest restaurant openings, giving Lettuce a huge footprint in Fulton Market with a multi-story space and rooftop deck. The private event space also keeps the building busy. The Mediterranean restaurant is a larger sibling to Ema, the River North spot from chef CJ Jacobson. Jacobson remains a partner and executive chef at both restaurants. LaCasse will work under Jacobson, filling this job listing.
LaCasse has a fine dining background, previously working at acclaimed restaurants including Drawing Room in Gold Coast and Mfk in Lakeview. He wanted to get back to working in a more food-focused environment where he cooked rather than concentrating on operations. He oversaw Half Acre’s food offerings at its original tasting room and newer Balmoral Avenue brewery that opened in 2017.
The chef said he’s admired LEYE’s philosophy for years and is eager to join the company. Sue Kim, LaCasse’s former boss at the Spring Restaurant Group while he worked at Green Zebra in Wicker Park, also steered him toward the new job. Kim is a general manager and managing partner at LEYE. She was a manager at Intro Chicago, where Jacobson worked, and felt the two could work well together.
Half Acre has promoted its sous chef, Tommy Sheean, to LaCasse’s former role. He’ll oversee operations at both locations, said Half Acre’s Maurizio Fiori. Sheean also worked with LaCasse at Drawing Room.
Like Jacobson, who’s appeared on TV shows like Top Chef, LaCasse has done TV work. He’s appeared on Bravo’s Around The World in 80 Plates.