Around Town: Veteran local chef Craig Cooper is the new culinary director at Cornerstone Restaurant Group, the company behind spots including the Michael Jordan restaurants and Chef Bill Kim’s Urbanbelly (Kim is also a partner). A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Cooper has previously worked as executive chef at Michael Jordan’s Steak House Chicago and opened Michael Jordan’s Restaurant in suburban Oak Brook.
Around Town: Gourmet mini-chain the Goddess and Grocer has brought on Mike Ciardi as executive chef to oversee all menus and catering across its four locations, including a new outpost coming this summer to West Loop, according to a news release. Ciardi began his career in the music industry as a festival producer before attending the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where he went on to work at upscale food shops Radish and Union Market.
River North: Forthcoming ski lodge-inspired bar and restaurant Chalet has brought on Louie Yu, formerly of modern Pan Asian restaurant Sunda, as executive chef, according to a rep. A native of San Carlos City, Philippines, Yu earned a culinary arts degree from Johnson and Wales University and began working at Sunda in 2013. He plans to offer options like duck confit poutine (fries, cheese curds, chives, roasted red peppers, demi-glace) and a Chalet Smash Burger (wagyu-bison blend, aged white cheddar, pickled peppers). The restaurant is slated to debut this summer in the former Farmhouse space on Chicago Avenue.
River North: Union Sushi and Barbecue Bar is slated to reopen in August helmed by Sushi Mike (Mike Ham), the well-known chef behind the Tanoshii restaurants in Andersonville and West Loop, according to a Facebook post. The restaurant first opened in 2011 under Chef Chao (Worachai Thapthimkuna).
West Loop: Goddess and Grocer has also hired Alisha Elenz as chef de cuisine, according to a news release. She’ll lead culinary operations at its West Loop location and introduce dishes at other outposts as well. With previous stints at Maude’s Liquor Bar and the Waldorf Astoria, Elenz quickly climbed the ranks from part-time prep took to executive chef at popular Spanish spot Mfk. She earned her a Jean Banchet Award for Rising Chef of the Year in 2019 and she was named as a James Beard Rising Star finalist the same year. She and Ciardi join executive pastry chef Alysha Dinatale, who has worked for the company since 2007.
West Loop: James Beard Award-winning Boka Restaurant Group has promoted chef Chris Jung to chef de cuisine at modern Japanese restaurant Momotaro, according to a Facebook post. Prior to the pandemic, Momotaro executive chef Gene Kato (Japonais) had planned to open Japanese-Italian restaurant Momotaro Italia. It remains to be seen if the project will come to fruition.
Around Town: Local meal delivery service Eat Purely this month appointed Cory Morris (Mercat a la Planxa, Ronero, Rural Society) as executive chef, according to a rep. This marks a departure from restaurants for Morris, a Salt Lake City, Utah native. He cites culinary influences from his travels to Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France. Founded in 2015, Eat Purely touts heat-and-eat dishes that are cooked and packaged in West Loop.
River North: Modern Pan Asian restaurant Sunda, known for attracting celebrities like Jamie Foxx, Ben Stiller, and Barbara Streisand, has a new executive chef: longtime sous chef Brawnson Rattanavong, according to a rep. Rattanavong has worked at the restaurant for 11 years and will oversee the kitchen and create new menu items as Sunda reopens for indoor dining on Tuesday, June 8 for the first time in nearly a year. Restaurateur and former nightclub owner Billy Dec first launched the restaurant in 2009. In 2018, he opened a second outpost in Nashville.
Berwyn: Local industry veteran Stephen Domanik (Longman & Eagle, Haywood Tavern) is taking the helm as executive chef at Babygold Barbecue, the new smoked meat operation at popular suburban music venue FitzGerald’s, according to a rep. The brainchild of chef John Manion (El Che Steakhouse & Bar), Babygold serves “Berwyn style” barbecue — a blend of regional styles — with deluxe plates of baby-back ribs, brisket, jalapeño cheddar sausage, and pork belly.