Dirk Flanigan has kicked around the Chicago scene for a number of years as Phil Vettel tweeted last weekend, he was one of the candidates for the job at a new little place some guys were opening a decade or so ago, called Blackbird. But if his main gig (Meritage) was well-liked for a number of years, he only entered the ranks of local name chefs personally with The Gage, which introduced aspects of the charcuterie and farm to table movements to staid Michigan Avenue dining when The Purple Pig was only a gleam in Jimmy Bannos' eye, and then with its fine dining sibling Henri. From there he rose in prominence quickly, making the James Beard shortlist, playing a lead role in launching the Chicago Gourmet Festival and serving as a culinary ambassador during the NATO summit last year. Now he's about to take on another lead role: restaurant owner. He's leaving The Gage and Henri for an otherwise unspecified "restaurant for my family."
By the statements released by both Flanigan and Gage/Henri owner Billy Lawless, it's an amicable parting; Lawless stated "It has been a pleasure working alongside Chef Dirk Flanigan at The Gage and Henri for the past six years. He was instrumental to the success of both restaurants, and we are grateful for his immeasurable contributions. We wish him nothing but the best." As for Flanigan, he said "I have worked hard to build The Gage for the past six years and Henri for the past two years. I am very proud of both restaurants. I have decided it's time for me to branch out on my own and open a restaurant for my family. My sous chefs have done a great job and I will miss them. The oven is hot and it's time." [Chicago Tribune]