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Todd English Is Coming to Chicago, So Why Aren't we Excited?

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 11, 2010 4:40PM

Todd English, via 312DD
We've spent a lot of time in these pages discussing issues of food and celebrity, and despite our occasional excitement about chefs and restaurant openings, we have a skeptical feeling about the whole enterprise. Celebrity chef does not equal quality food. Great restaurants have chefs that watch the staff, that cook in the restaurant and that have a personal investment in the success of the enterprise. North Pond remains one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago because Bruce Sherman is there every night watching plates come out of the kitchen, and that level of interest is necessary for great food.

Which is why we met the news of Todd English's descent on Chicago with a collective shrug. 312 Dining Diva reported yesterday that English, a chef with a list of restaurants as long as your arm, has acquired a huge space in the Gold Coast to create a "Food Hall." The venue will include many different stations, including a wine bar, a dumpling bar, pizzeria, sushi bar and a bakery. The concept has already been piloted in New York. As soon as the news hit the interwebs, it immediately bounced around to every food blog in the city.

English, while he is a good chef, an entertaining personality and kind of a dreamy man, will likely not be overseeing the operation of this venue. He will fly in once a month, make an appearance and then jet off again, probably on Delta Airlines, for whom he is the executive chef. While the restaurant may end up being a sensation, it will have little relationship to the august personage whose name is on it. His latest restaurant opening in New York was met with a mean review from Sam Sifton for this very reason - it seemed to have no distinguishing features beyond the name of a celebrity. We'll be much more interested when the local chef in charge of the operation is announced. Until then, we greet this announcement with only slightly more enthusiasm than the opening of a new Gap.