George Mendes Holds Down the Wallsé Fort Until Help ArrivesHaving heard and read reports on Eater that the chefs at both of Kurt Gutenbrunner’s restaurants had quit, we were on the trail of something juicy. Apparently, it isn’t to be had. Gutenbrunner tells us that there are perfectly good explanations for the simultaneous departure of Mattias Froeschl from Wallsé and Martin Pirker from Blaue Gans. “I see it as a positive,” the chef says. “People need experience, and now they will have more.” Froeschel is moving to California with his new wife, and Pirker back to Austria to take over his family business. New chefs are on the way at both restaurants, but in the meantime Guttenbrunner is getting a helping hand from George Mendes, the former Tocqueville chef whose solo restaurant has been delayed longer than the Chinese space program. Guttenbrunner hasn’t revealed the ID of his new chefs yet, but we’ll let you know when we hear.
Update: Word comes from Kurt Guttenbrunner: The new chef at Wallsé will be Alex Roesch, from the two-star Michelin restaurant Tantris in Munich, who’s coming in January. Conny Quehenberger has been promoted at Blaue Gans and is currently running the kitchen there.
Kevin Pomplun, New Chef at Thor, Now the Old Chef at Thor
Thor’s hammer has come down on Kevin Pomplun, the young chef who was hired last fall to replace Kurt Guttenbrunner at the swanky restaurant at the Hotel on Rivington. Thor’s GM, Herve Rossano, tells us that Pomplun packed his knives and left and that the restaurant is currently looking for a new chef. We suspect the unexplained departure has something to do with the absolute lack of buzz or interest in Pomplun’s modern American menu. Given that the eyes of the restaurant world will be on Thor when the James Beard Awards after-party is again thrown there, the pressure is on to find someone to mind the store.
Earlier: Thor’s New Chef: I Just Want to Fit In!
In the Magazine
Chefs Try to Take It to the Next Level in This Week’s Issue
Five established chefs take center stage in this week’s issue – or six, if you count Kurt Gutenbrunner, who, per In Season, has a way with white asparagus. The others? Michael Anthony, the Blue Hill Haute Barnyard prodigy who stepped into Tom Colicchio’s shoes at Gramercy Tavern; Christopher Lee, a major rising talent who filled big shoes at Gilt; Kerry Simon, a Las Vegas–based Vongerichten lieutenant who is now doing the food for a giant karaoke bar; and finally Marco Canora and Asian dessert master Pichet Ong, whose long-awaited debuts, Insieme and P*Ong, respectively, open this week. All this star power, along with two short lists that couldn’t be more different, awaits in this week’s magazine.
So You Thought Boiling Asparagus Was Easy, Eh?
Given that white asparagus comes around rarely and then only briefly, it makes sense to do everything possible to make it right. To that end, Rob and Robin have recruited Wallsé chef Kurt Gutenbrunner to demonstrate a method for slicing and boiling the vegetables. It’s so foolproof that even the most ham-handed New Yorker can execute it in his own home kitchen.
Thor’s New Chef: I Just Want to Fit In!
Thor, the posh Germanic restaurant in the Rivington Hotel, was never really true to the spirit of the Lower Eastpacking District. But now that Kevin Pomplun is replacing Kurt Gutenbrunner and reimagining the place as an American bistro, that’s all about to change.
“We’re totally revamping,” the young chef tells us. “I don’t want Thor to be this huge steel and glass structure that’s too intimidating to come to. I’m not trying to be more than the neighborhood. I want to fit in.” It goes without saying that this means that between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, there will be a late-night menu, bottle service, and — you guessed it — D.J.’s. The food will be lighter and more fun than under Herr Gutenbrunner; think fish sticks served with malt-vinegar foam, and a steamed black bass over sautéed pea shoots with lemon-marinated chanterelles. “We’re trying to get the word out there that there’s a switch at Thor,” Pomplun said. We’ll be sure tell all our friends who would otherwise be at 205.
What to Eat Tonight
Best of Times, Wurst of Times to End This WeekendConfusingly, Oktoberfest happens mostly in September; it ends this coming Sunday. Rob and Robin recommended five top places to kick the month off with; since you’ve surely celebrated at each of those, here are five more to visit before the festival’s all over.