After a spate of bad reviews for Le Select, the stunningly designed French restaurant that debuted in January in River North, Boka Restaurant Group has parted ways with star chef Daniel Rose in an equally stunning move four months after opening.
Chicago-based Boka announced the move via a news release and didn’t make co-founders Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm available to interview. Boka and Rose also collaborated on a restaurant in LA called Café Basque inside the Hoxton hotel.
Rose’s name was attached to Le Select as a partner, and he also has projects in France, New York, and Los Angeles. Rose created recipes and trained staff while Boka operated the restaurant, applying its James Beard Award-winning hospitality approach to Le Select. Still, in Boka’s eyes, it was Rose’s kitchen with him overseeing day-to-day operations.
A spokesperson for Rose declined comment.
Chris Pandel is known for his work at Boka’s Swift & Sons and Cira, and it’s the hope he’ll bring the restaurant up to Boka’s standards. And as negative impressions on social media and elsewhere began trickling in and Rose’s reputation made vulnerable, the group also brought Lee Wolen, chef at Boka’s namesake restaurant, to help on a temporary basis. These moves took place during a hectic time for the group, simultaneously prepping to open three new restaurants in Lakeview. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Café Basque was also receiving a tepid reception.
Veteran chef Patrick Sheerin who worked Everest, Trencherman, and Naha has since replaced Heiman. The trio of Boka chefs, with Pandel installed as a partner and Wolen as a consulting chef, will introduce a new dinner menu in the coming weeks, according to the news release. Despite the unceremonious start, Boka feels the brasserie concept can be salvaged. A comment attributed to Katz refers to how “everyday approachable dining” resonates with the company, which also believes in “the power of spirited collaboration.”
The collaboration between the chef and Boka was somewhat of a homecoming for Rose, a suburban Chicago native who left the Midwest for France. He absorbed the culture and learned the language to become a rare American chef to find success in Paris and applied his knowledge by opening restaurants in France and New York. Le Coucou earned a Michelin star and a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.
The two parties saw each other as a good match to pursue multiple projects. As Boka has grown ambitious beyond Chicago’s borders with restaurants like Laser Wolf in New York and Philadelphia, a partnership with Hoxton, which has hotels all over the world. Rose’s sought to spread his passion for French culture throughout America.
With Le Select, Boka transformed the Chicago outpost of the Bottled Blonde, a controversial sports bar and club, into an elegant space with a second-floor cocktail bar. Boka is one of Chicago’s most successful restaurant groups, and that formula rarely encounters speedbumps of this magnitude. But even as Le Select reloads, Boka’s three-headed monster which debuted in April in Lakeview — with a fast-casual chicken shop, a neighborhood sushi restaurant, and a diner from celebrity chef Stephanie Izard — thrives with crowded dining rooms.