The Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, Inc (SWRG), a collection of iconic American steakhouses headquartered in Boston, MA, is…
Chris Curren named Executive Chef within The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group
Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner – co-owners of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group – have hired Chris Curren as an Executive Chef. Curren will helm the kitchens at both the “literal farm-to-table restaurant” Homestead and craft cocktail lounge The Berkshire Room in addition to working on other facets inside the growing restaurant group.
Curren has spent the last 11 years as a chef at some of the top restaurants in Chicago and Cleveland. Curren is the former executive chef/owner of Blue 13, the former executive chef at Elate in the Hotel Felix, and the former executive chef at Stout Barrel House & Galley. (Chris Curren’s full biography is at the bottom of this release.)
“I’m ecstatic to get back to my roots and cook from my heart at Homestead and The Berkshire Room,” Curren said. “It’s been a whirlwind the last few days getting everything in order to start working with Greg, Scott, and their team.”
Homestead is located on second story at 1924 W Chicago Ave (patrons enter through Roots Handmade Pizza), and is slated to re-open in late May. The Berkshire Room – located inside the lobby of the ACME Hotel Company at 15 E Ohio St in River North – is slated to open in mid-June.
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group properties currently include The Fifty/50, Roots Handmade Pizza, West Town Bakery & Diner, Homestead, The Berkshire Room, and a West Town Bakery outpost inside the ACME Hotel Company lobby that’s set to open in May.
“Chris is the real deal,” Mohr said. “We’re just excited to have him on board with us. We know as a restaurant group this is a huge step for us. We know Chris is going to help us achieve our goals to make Homestead and The Berkshire Room great places.”
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group is still interviewing to fill the head mixologist position for both Homestead and The Berkshire Room.
Curren’s Homestead cuisine will be rooted in “rustic elegance” where he will serve simple and well-thought-out shareable plates showcasing the essence of high-quality products. In addition to meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes, Curren will also feature handmade pasta as well. Curren will source ingredients from Homestead’s 1,000 square-foot organic rooftop garden and a private “Homestead-only” farm outside of the city of Chicago. Curren will also source ingredients through his longtime purveyors such as Slagel Family Farm, Nichols Farms & Orchard, and the Green City Market, among others.
Curren will bring Chris “Chip” Davies – Curren’s former chef de cuisine at Blue 13 – on board as the chef de cuisine at Homestead. In addition to his long tenure at Blue 13, Davies was most recently the chef de cuisine at the much-acclaimed Acadia under chef Ryan McCaskey and at Little Market Brasserie under chef Ryan Poli. Davies also was a chef at Henri under chef Dirk Flanigan, at Branch 27 under chef John Manion, and at various well-known restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.
The outdoor rooftop at Homestead features 85 outdoor seats with full view of the L-shaped 1,000-square foot organic rooftop garden and two massive vertical hanging gardens. The light-filled and interior air-conditioned space inside Homestead will seat about 60 people at tables with an additional 10 seats at the bar. The interior will be decked out with live birch walls, a hanging plant wall, air plants, bespoke glass terrariums filled with living vegetation, and vintage accents. The south side of Homestead’s interior features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the rooftop garden.
Curren’s menu at The Berkshire Room will include about ten elevated cocktail lounge bites including bison tartare, a Ploughman’s Lunch, and fresh-shucked oysters.
Mohr and Weiner partnered with Gene Kornota and Anthony Klok of Neighborhood Development Corporation – managing partners of the ACME Hotel Company – to open The Berkshire Room and an outpost of West Town Bakery inside ACME. Mohr, Weiner, and their team are responsible for the concept, execution, and day-to-day operations of The Berkshire Room and West Town Bakery inside ACME.
The Berkshire Room’s name comes from The Berkshire Hotel which once occupied the original hotel space where ACME now sits from the 1920s thru the 1950s. Design-wise, The Berkshire Room will marry the aesthetic of an old-world cocktail lounge with contemporary, urban touches. Expect whiskey crate walls, a bar front made from overlapping leather belts, and the original and rare terrazzo composite flooring from The Berkshire Hotel that was uncovered during demolition of the space. The Berkshire Room will seat approximately 70.
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s Chris Teixeira – currently the Executive Pastry Chef at West Town Bakery & Diner and formerly of fine-dining landmark Sixteen in the Trump International
Hotel & Tower Chicago – will also be the executive pastry chef at Homestead, The Berkshire Room, and the upcoming West Town Bakery location that will be inside ACME.
Curren and Teixeira will also overhaul the “diner” portion of the sit-down menu at West Town Bakery & Diner – a 3-Star Certified Green Restaurant located at 1916 West Chicago Avenue. Teixeira has already revamped the pastry and bread programs at West Town Bakery & Diner and those products will be featured at the West Town Bakery location inside ACME as well.
The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group Executive Chef/Partner Martin Arellano – a “Day One” employee when The Fifty/50 upscale sports bar opened in March of 2008 in Wicker Park – will continue as the executive chef at The Fifty/50 and Roots Handmade Pizza. Prior to joining The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group over five years ago, Arellano was a chef at four-star dining landmark Spiaggia; Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab; and the private stadium club at Wrigley Field.
Curren, Arellano, and Teixeira will work together to expand and refine the private dining and corporate catering program for all The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group properties.
Homestead opening chef John Wayne Formica amicably parted ways with The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group after Homestead closed for the season this past October. Curren has invited Formica back to Homestead to cook with him for an event later this summer, and Formica has gladly accepted. Before wrapping up his duties Homestead last fall, Formica accepted a position as a Senior Associate Chef at the restaurant group Intrestco LLC. As part of Intrestco, Formica opened as a chef and is still currently a chef at E+O Food and Drink that opened in February 2013 in Mount Prospect, Illinois.
CHRIS CURREN BIO
Chris Curren is an Executive Chef for The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group. Curren will head the kitchens at both the literal farm-to-table restaurant Homestead and the craft cocktail lounge The Berkshire Room. Curren will also work on other facets inside the growing restaurant group.
Curren has spent the last 11 years as a chef at some of the top restaurants in Chicago and Cleveland. Curren has established himself as one of Chicago’s best chefs and is regularly asked to participate and showcase his culinary skills at prestigious fundraisers, pop-ups, and award dinners.
Curren moved to Chicago in 2006, and two years after working as a sous chef at an acclaimed Chicago spot – started working on his own restaurant with business partner Dan Marunowski. The duo opened Blue 13 in River North – a fine dining establishment free of pretense or self-importance. As the executive chef at Blue 13, Curren began to truly showcase his unique style of twisting traditional American cuisine by using French, Italian, and Asian influences.
Blue 13 quickly became one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago and garnered numerous awards – including a coveted Michelin recommendation. Curren was also nominated for “Rising Star Chef” and Blue 13 was nominated for “Best Fine Dining Restaurant” at the prestigious Jean Banchet Awards.
During his time at Blue 13, Curren was also the executive chef at Elate restaurant the Hotel Felix in River North – showcasing his ability to run two high-profile restaurants simultaneously. While at Blue 13 and Elate, Curren also participated in the acclaimed Cochon 555 Heritage Fire pig butchering and cooking event in Napa Valley, California. Curren left both Elate and Blue 13 to concentrate on other projects. After his time at Elate and Blue 13, Curren served as the executive chef at Stout Barrel House & Galley in River North.
Before moving to Chicago, Curren – a Strongsville, Ohio native – spent four years working in some of the Cleveland area’s top restaurants. Curren was chef de cuisine at the acclaimed 3 Birds restaurant where he created seasonal menus and weekly specials that helped land the contemporary American spot on Esquire magazine’s “Top 20 Best New Restaurants in America” and Bon Appetit’s “Top 50 in 2005” lists.
Prior to his time at 3 Birds, Curren also worked in Cleveland area kitchens under influential chef Bruce Kalman who helped encourage Curren to move to Chicago to broaden his culinary horizons.
Curren graduated from the top of his class from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. Curren is also a University of Dayton graduate.