Which of Pittsburgh's Top Chefs are Switching Kitchens?

The changes coincide with the planned openings of several new restaurants.


Some chef news:

Brian Little now is the executive chef of Six Penn Kitchen, Eat'n Park Hospitality Group's downtown flagship restaurant. The kitchen previously was run by Cory Hughes, who will move to Google, where the food program also is run by Eat'n Park's Parkhurst division.

Little spent the past few months cooking private dinner-club events. Prior to that, he worked as the executive chef of Tender Bar + Kitchen in Lawrenceville.

He already has made a few changes to the Six Penn menu by replacing some older-school items such as the New York strip steak and the veal chop with more of-the-moment dishes including grilled hanger steak with pickled celery and gin-infused compressed grilled melons, and a rack of Jamison lamb served with foraged mushroom, mizuna and burnt shallot.


He says that more menu developments are in the works. Last week, I previewed of some of what’s to come and quite enjoyed the works in progress. The tomatoes on my summer salad were served a week too early (I went to the tasting aware that Little still is experimenting with the dishes), but once tomatoes hit their season, the balance of tomato, nasturtium and summer herbs should be delightful. The bits of basil spoonbread in the salad particularly were delicious. Little’s seared arctic char served over a cold barley salad and vinegared peaches was terrific; the faint brine of the char's crispy skin paired nicely with the acidity of the peaches.


As I mentioned in our Best Restaurants issue, I’m impressed with Little’s development as a chef, so I'm excited to see what he can do on a Six Penn's big stage. The food there has been consistently good, but it's also become rather safe over the last few years. I hope that Little will be able to shake that up a bit.


Leaving downtown is Dennis Marron, who just resigned as executive chef of The Commoner, the restaurant at the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh. The parting was amicable. Marron says that he's going to take a little time off before focusing on opening his own restaurant in Pittsburgh. A new executive chef of The Commoner hasn't yet been named.


Journeyman chef Tamilselvan Thangadurai, whom I first met at his now-closed Monroeville restaurant Kohinoor, is cooking at Coriander in Squirrel Hill. He seemed to have lost some zip at his most recent gig in the kitchen of Taj Mahal on McKnight Road. Thangadurai still isn’t cooking his food with the same marvelous zest of flavor that he was at Kohinoor, but I had solid buffet lunch there last week that was a big improvement on what Coriander previously was offering.


A few nights later, a couple of friends and I went back for dinner, and though some dishes such as the tandoori chicken weren’t quite up to the level I expect from his cooking, others, including the mango chicken curry and green chili-topped naan, were. Hopefully he’ll settle into the kitchen, and ownership will give him some freedom to cook to his best.


Csilla Thackray, formerly sous chef at Bar Marco (above, left), will run the kitchen at The Vandal, which, according to co-owner Joey Hilty, is expected to open the first week of August. Station, Curtis Gamble’s new Bloomfield restaurant, also is expected to open that week. You can preview both concepts at the same time on July 23 at their collaborative beer dinner. Then, on July 25, Station will host Cocktails and Construction. Gamble will serve five to six small plates, and The Vandal will have a dish as well.


Finally, Roger Li (above, right) continues to refine his menu for Umami (with an expected opening of October) with popups around the city.


This week, he served takoyaki, tekka don, temaki, tsukemen and shumai to a jam-packed crowd at the Allegheny Wine Mixer. Li says his next popup will take place in August at Bayardstown Social Club.


In other news:

On Saturday, the National Aviary broke attendance records with its annual Night in the Tropics fundraising event. The highlights included dancing, music and lots of food. The Taste Awards panel selected the following winners: Social at Bakery Square for Best Savory, Priory Fine Pastries for Best Sweet and Social at Bakery Square for Best Overall. Atria's Restaurant & Tavern took People's Choice Honors.

Pittsburgh expat Casey Barber recently released her first book, "Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food," to celebrate the tastes of her hometown — with upgraded ingredients including garbanzo beans and bourbon. The book offers sweet and savory recipes along with tips and tricks related to dough and more. This release is a labor of love for Barber, who also photographed the pillows of dough.

Those craving sweets have lucked out each time they've visited decades-old Sugar & Spice, an ice-cream shop and candy-supply store, in the South Hills. Now Sugar & Spice has launched its ice-cream truck, which can be spotted throughout the city. Follow @PGHmagEAT for the lowdown on who's serving where.
—Kristina Martin


Categories: PGHeats