Last week, DMK Restaurants opened a food hall in suburban Washington, D.C. The Assembly isn’t unlike DMK’s more recent projects in Chicago, including the Exchange and Arch — venues with multiple restaurants that take up prime real estate.
However, there was something missing from DMK’s announcement — the last letter of the company’s name. Chef and co-founder Michael Kornick was absent from marketing materials, as the decorated chef who brought Chicago MK The Restaurant was nowhere to be seen.
Kornick is just fine. He tells Eater Chicago that last year he moved to Evergreen, Colorado leaving DMK in the fall. It was an amicable separation as the company’s other co-founder, David Morton, wanted to pursue larger projects, like the Assembly.
“David and I had a great run — he’s 10 years younger than me and he really has aspirations of these large projects and moving the company in a great direction. I was turning the corner in another chapter of my life.”
Learning how to run a restaurant while working for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Kornick would form KDK Restaurants, opening hits like Marche, Red Light, and Opera. He opened Mk in 1999 in River North and enjoyed an 18-year run where he attracted talent like Erick Williams (Virtue) and Jenner Tomaska (Next, Esme). He later partnered with Morton, whose family — as Morton tells Eater DC — not only “has survived wars, Spanish flus, depression and recessions,” but also founded the Morton’s The Steakhouse chain.
DMK Burger Bar, Fish Bar, and Henry’s were a few of the restaurants the duo opened together. Henry’s has since closed along Hubbard Street. DMK also closed Fort Willow off the Elston Industrial Corridor and sold both County Barbecue on Taylor Street and Ada Street near Lincoln Park to employees who worked at the restaurant. The moves demonstrated a new direction for the company.
Kornick has taken up some consulting gigs and says he plans on opening a small restaurant in Colorado. He’s hopeful that Chicago’s restaurant industry can endure during the pandemic. During this time, he’s seen the demand for private chefs increase. He may have some Chicago-related news in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Kornick’s departure from DMK isn’t the only that’s been lost in the shuffle during the pandemic. For example, Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca quietly changed hands earlier this year, as the owners of Au Cheval have taken over Rick Bayless’ former Mexican restaurant and brewpub along Randolph Street. Bayless had left the dual-concept in July 2020, selling his shares to business partner Manny Valdes. Hogsalt Hospitality hasn’t made an announcement and Leña Brava and Cruz Blanca don’t appear on the company’s online roster of restaurants. However, job pages refer to Hogsalt HR, and Cruz Blanca features a burrito stuffed with Au Cheval french fries.