Many of Vancouver’s fine-dining enthusiasts will have noticed by now that David Hawksworth’s long-time culinary director, executive chef and culinary aide-de-camp Kristian Eligh is no longer to be found at any Hawksworth operation.
And in Toronto, diners in the know are by now abreast of other similar high- level departures from restaurants of consequence. Like, for example, that of Damon Campbell, the fine chef who a few short years ago was charged with righting Bosk at the Shangri-La Hotel and succeeded, but has since left the scene. So has Michael Steh, the chef who helped pilot The Chase on its course to becoming a local juggernaut.
Admittedly, such comings and goings are normal in this cut-throat business. But it’s unusual for all the goings to have a common destination. And it’s weirder still when it’s called Browns—as in, Browns Socialhouse.
“My job focus is menu development,” explained Damon Campbell, Browns’ new VP of culinary. “I’ll be introducing new menu items and continuously trying to enhance existing ones.”
That sounds like what chefs are generally supposed to be doing at restaurants. So why, then, does he need not one but two high-priced, executive chef-calibre hired guns, like Eligh and Steh, to help him? Well, the trouble is that Browns has been spawning franchises of exceptional horror. The Ontario branch, in Oakville, has a menu that actually spans crunchy spicy tuna tacos, chicken quesadillas, wonton soup, spaghetti carbonara and something called a grilled chicken cowgirl. And that’s just for starters. Browns has a lot of work to do if it’s going to take a run at higher-end fast food chains with culinary programs helmed by former fine-dining chefs—like Cactus Club (Rob Feenie) or Joey (Chris Mills). From Canada’s 100 Best, our message is threefold: good luck, we’ll miss you, and we hope that you are all being very well paid indeed.