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Imagine if there were a day when crazy stuff right out of Wackyland could be reported as real news. That's what it's been like in Chicago the last day or so! Chefs leaving, chefs coming, chefs getting awards, places closing, pranks backfiring . . .
Here's what we heard happened—sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
• A guy who practically works out of his house was declared one of the country's best new chefs by Food & Wine! Jake Bickelhaupt of 42 Grams, whose tiny, very personal restaurant is downstairs from where he and wife/hostess Alexa Welsh live, won acclaim as one of the ten best new chefs in the country, alongside guys and gals with big, lush, well-funded swanky joints. The Reader's been covering him since very early on—OK, initially we were pretty dubious of his aspiration to launch a Trotter-level restaurant via Kickstarter very early in his career, but he landed in our good graces pretty quickly as this piece about the opening of 42 Grams barely over a year ago shows.
• More Chicago chefs are competing for another Food & Wine honor! You can vote early and often for chefs in the running for People's Best New Chef honors here; seven Chicago chefs are up for the Great Lakes title this week.
• A Chicago-born chef is coming to Intro—to preview his restaurant that will be in Minneapolis! The second guest chef to helm the upscale pop-up spot Intro, located where L2O used to be, has been announced: he's Erik Anderson, a former Chicagoan who came to fame at Nashville's the Catbird Seat, where he and cochef Josh Habiger won Food & Wine's best new chef in 2012. He's opening a place in Minneapolis called Brut, but we'll get a first taste when his gig starts in May. Here's a piece about a dinner he did at El Ideas a year or so ago. (Chicago Tribune)
• A popular downtown place implodes! Whoa, did not see trouble coming at Embeya, the very handsome and quite large Asian-fusion place started by two vets of the Elysian Hotel. Things always seemed pretty peaceful, but chef Thai Dang is out, and manager Attila Gyulai has promised that a "nationally acclaimed chef" will replace him shortly. In the meantime it's closed—and it may not be "progressive Asian," or Embeya at all, when it reopens. (Eater)
• Running a second restaurant for 18 years was a mistake! So says Jimmy Bannos Sr. about the recently shuttered 600 N. Michigan outpost of the Loop Cajun spot Heaven on Seven, which was a big deal in the 1980s and 90s and hits 35 this year. He's the subject of a lengthy interview in Serious Eats, and I suspect that getting out in the press is probably a tactical move as a lawsuit filed by his partner in the Purple Pig, Scott Harris, unfolds.
• The Beer Temple pranked customers and they weren't happy! At least one customer wasn't, anyway. The Avondale beer store slipped a picture of rare, in-demand Goose Island Bourbon County Stout into an April 1 Facebook post, and some guy claimed, "My friend drove like a madman to get one only to find out it really was a joke. We spend hundreds of dollars a month there and will gladly take our business elsewhere after that bullshit." This is why you should never make stuff up, kids.