Yes, it's true -- the James Beard Award-winning chef de cuisine at the Valley's most luxurious resort dining destination is moving on. Thompson made the announcement at a staff meeting yesterday afternoon.
The news isn't entirely surprising. Anytime I hear about someone winning such prestigious culinary honors, I have to wonder how long it will be until the chef leaves town to pursue a bigger and better offer, or to start a new restaurant. That kind of ebb and flow of talent is what makes the restaurant world so interesting -- it's not just about the food, but about creative people and their restless ambitions.
According to Valerie Poulos, the Phoenician's director of PR and marketing, this isn't related to my previous post about a rumored new restaurant concept involving celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Indeed, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns The Phoenician, signed a deal last year with Vongerichten and his partner, Phil Suarez, to develop new upscale restaurant concepts for Starwood's luxury hotels around the world. And it's still possible that Mary Elaine's could become an entirely different restaurant altogether.
But for now, the restaurant is simply "looking for a great new chef," Poulos says.
Chef Thompson, whose wife lives in Los Angeles, will be taking the summer off to figure out his next move. Traditionally, September is the start of the new season in the restaurant biz, and Mary Elaine's always closes for the month of August, so we might not see a new chef de cuisine installed until the fall.
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Thompson's last day will be Friday, April 13, but he is still planning on serving as event chair of Taste of the Nation, the annual chef-filled charity event that will be held at The Phoenician on Saturday, May 12.