Chef Shuffle

Shawn McClain Out, Aaron Deal In as Executive Chef of Custom House

Chef Aaron Deal
Chef Aaron Deal Photo: Tristan

Aaron Deal, formerly of Tristan in South Carolina, is taking over as executive chef at Custom House for Shawn McClain. McClain is staying on board as partner with Sue and Peter Drohomyrecky in Spring Restaurant Group which owns Custom House, but says, “Now, my focus is on Spring and Green Zebra. Sue and Peter are taking over Custom House. We have had such a hard year with the economy, it just drove us back to try to focus on individual projects.”

We were unable to get a hold of McClain, but we suspect the split may have been brewing for some time. We spoke to him back in 2006 after the opening of Custom House when he said of the partnership, “It has its days. You know it’s a marriage. When things are going well and everybody is getting taken care of, problems seem to go away. When things get tough, that’s when… well, we’re going through a growing period right now. … In the beginning you just want to open the restaurant, then you realize, hey, we’re (the partners) hitched emotionally, financially. Everything will work itself out in the end though.”

Deal is coming off a stage at New York’s Gramercy Tavern and plans to model the new Custom House menu in that mold. We hope so and that Chicago doesn’t get some watered down bar as is often the case when a high profile chef walks away from a previously haute venture. Printer’s Row has enough regular burger and beer shacks like Blackies and Hackneys already. No word on whether the bone-in-short rib with horseradish cream puffs is off the table, but we hope not.

As for McClain, he also told us in 2006, he’d be interested in expanding Green Zebra in some capacity. Foregoing the typical meat substitutes in favor of smart seasonal vegetable centered cuisine, Green Zebra is one of the best vegetarian spots in the country. Even as ardent carnivores, we’d love to see more. [Dish]

Shawn McClain Out, Aaron Deal In as Executive Chef of Custom House