3/15/2012 01:07:00 PM

New Chef for Le Bec-Fin, Barclay Prime, More

Talula's Garden
As soon as Nicolas Fanucci announced he was taking over Le Bec-Fin from Georges Perrier (it’s currently closed for the revamp), speculation on who would lead the kitchen was rampant. Rumors surfaced that we would steal a top toque from New York’s lauded Per Se, but it turns out that we’ll be snagging a chef from a different part of the Thomas Keller sphere. Walter Abrams, previously sous at Napa Valley’s French Laundry, will be running the lines on Walnut Street, turning out “over the top” French cuisine. As part of the deal, according to Philly.com, his wife Jennifer Smith will become Le Bec’s new pastry chef.

While the (temporary) shuttering of Le Bec-Fin was not a direct response to the recent downgrade in “bells” from Philadelphia Inquirer critic Craig LaBan, less than stellar reviews can reverberate and lead to staffing changes. Stephen Starr’s Barclay Prime was also recently downgraded, and chef Stephen Wambach departed for Azure at the new Revel Casino in Atlantic City. Coming in to replace him at the Rittenhouse steakhouse will be Jeff Froehler, a native New Jerseyan who was sous when Barclay Prime first opened.

A not-so-great writeup from LaBan also triggered the release of Mike Santoro from his position as opening chef at Aimee Olexy’s Talula’s Garden last summer. Formerly at Blue Duck Tavern in D.C., Santoro had moved his family up to the Philadelphia area, and told folks he planned to stick around. He’s finally made moves on something new: Eater Philly has the scoop that Santoro will partner with caterer Michael Dorris to open his own spot in the former James space, on 8th & Christian in Bella Vista. Look for “old world cooking” sometime this year.

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