Graham Elliot restaurant names Andrew Brochu as new chef
Andrew Brochu, an alumnus of Alinea and Kith & Kin, will take over Graham Elliot restaurant in February. (Mark Helenowski/Photo for the Tribune)
Brochu’s hiring, which will be announced to staff this afternoon at the Gallery District restaurant, is the clearest sign yet Elliot is eschewing the playful, cheeky elegance of the opening concept and returning to his fine dining roots.
Brochu, 30, spent two and a half years at Alinea, another two and a half at Pops for Champagne, and as executive chef of Kith & Kin before it shuttered last spring. For the last six month, Brochu partnered alongside Phillip Foss at EL Ideas, Foss’ ultra-limited seating, dozen-courses, out-in-the-dining-hinterlands restaurant project.
Brochu was approached by the Elliot team less than a month ago. Elliot and restaurant group director Merlin Verrier told him they wanted to push their flagship restaurant towards refinement. The restaurant was awarded one Michelin star in the last few editions of the guidebooks, and now they're shooting for two. They told Brochu he was their first and only choice.
"At Kith & Kin, I had free will as a chef, but it was casual dining. Fine dining is what I excel at," Brochu said. "Graham Elliot is giving me the freedom and told me to come in and cook what I feel. This is my first chance to have my own menu, to cook the food I really want to put out."
Followers of Graham Elliot (the restaurant) may have noticed a philosophical shift over its three-and-a-half years of existence. It opened in 2008 as a, well, middle finger to Elliot’s Avenues days — dropping stuffiness for a menu of beef Stroganoff and Kung Pao sweetbreads. Waiters wore T-shirts and jeans, and the soundtrack featured the musical stylings of Elliot’s home-recorded guitar strummings.
In September, the restaurant introduced three tasting menus that topped out at $250 with wine pairings. Front of house attire now required ties and sports coats, and music had been turned down. Much of their fun-casual imperative was transferred over to Grahamwich, the River North sandwich shop. With the announcement of Graham Elliot Bistro (scheduled later this year on Randolph Street), the upscale renditions of split pea soups and Buffalo chicken that appeared in earlier iterations of Graham Elliot menus now had a new home.
Brochu’s first day cooking at Graham Elliot, Version 2.0, will be Wed., Feb. 1.