Sixteen in the Trump International Hotel & Tower was without a headlining chef for a long time after the departure of Frank Brunacci last June— long enough to lose the Michelin star it had earned in Michelin’s first year rating Chicago restaurants. But the announcement finally brings in a chef with a resume to impress the guests that something special is going on downstairs, in a city better known for chef-driven restaurants than hotel dining. He’s Thomas Lents, whose experience has had him working under two of the best known French chefs in America. Most recently, he was chef de cuisine at Joel Robuchon at The Mansion in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand— the first American to work for Robuchon in such a capacity. Before that he worked in Dublin, in charge of the wild game and seafood departments at Thornton Restaurant, a Michelin two star in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, and had a stint in San Francisco as chef de cuisine at Quince as well. But way back when, he got his start here in Chicago at Everest, in five years rising to executive sous chef under Chef Jean Joho.
We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess that there will be a French slant to his cooking, but it will be another month or so before he begins introducing new dishes. One thing to note is that where Brunacci oversaw all foodservice at the hotel, Lents has been hired specifically to run the kitchen at Sixteen. That certainly suggests that the hotel is serious about getting that Michelin star and position on the dining scene back.
In other hotel dining news, though we don’t really know anything more about the more casual restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel (which also lost its Michelin star when it announced that it was closing the formal Seasons restaurant), we do know one thing— its name. Penny Pollack of Chicago Magazine tweets that it will be Allium, Latin for garlic (and more than a little suggestive of another Chicago restaurant starting with A; for a casual place, they may have just set themselves a high bar).