Chef Exodus: Everyone Out At Soul; Marche Vet In
People. What the hell is up with us writing recaps of restaurant reviews, and then AS WE ARE WRITING THEM getting news about the executive chefs leaving? Are we cursed? Yesterday we were in the middle of writing up Heather Shouse's take on Farmerie 58 when we were interrupted by the news that Billy Alexander was out the door. And just now — after knocking the Sun-Times' Pat Bruno for failing to mention the departure of pastry chef Stephanie Prida from her position at Soul in Clarendon Hills, we read in The Stew that exec chef Karen Nicholas and sous chef Wendy Carreira are heading out as well.
Interestingly, their replacement is a vet of another venture from Soul restaurateur Howard Davis — Marche's Jared Case, who has been instructed to basically turn the whole model on its ear:
Case’s mandate at Soul is to make the menu more familiar to local customers, and to drop the price points—and in so doing, bolster Soul’s disappointing numbers. “We’re trying to understand the customer more and understand the neighborhood more,” he says.
Davis, if you're reading this: We're sure Case is a great chef (we've had some truly memorable meals at Marche), but you had a terrific thing going with Nicholas and her team — they pulled in some really stellar reviews, and not just from Bruno (who loves nine out of ten things he puts in his mouth), but also from no-punches-pulled critics like Heather Shouse of Time Out Chicago.
Don't blame the price points and the numbers — you're in Clarendon Hills, for chrissakes. Your restaurant is two blocks from the Hinsdale Golf Course. That's not a place that's going to happily sustain the kind of restaurant that Soul is (or was, up until this chef exodus) — if you want to put butts in seats, you're going to wind up dumbing down your menu to the point where it's not going to be a restaurant you can be proud of anymore. If you'd given this time — and given the rave reviews a chance to saturate the civic consciousness — you might have another Vie or Tallgrass on your hands. Why are you taking the path of least resistance? There's no glory in that for anyone.