It’s good to come home again—especially if you’re Dennis Bernard, who is returning to the Publican (837 W. Fulton Market, West Loop) as the new chef. He worked in the kitchen at Publican eight years ago (as well as doing a stint at Blackbird, One Off Hospitality’s flagship) before becoming the boss at Dove’s Luncheonette, but he’s back—and he’s running the kitchen at one of Chicago’s most important restaurants.
Bernard arrives in the wake of Cosmo Goss’s termination by One Off in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, but the kitchen has kept right on going, producing some of Chicago’s most delicious, reliable cuisine. It just needed a new leader. “I was interested because of what the Publican is for Chicago and our culinary scene,” says Bernard. “I’m excited to see where my food is going to evolve from where it is now.”
Bernard is stepping into the chef de cuisine role at The Publican, the person that primarily runs the kitchen (under the guidance of One Off Hospitality’s Executive Chef Paul Kahan). Goss’s position, which encompassed the entire Publican brand, has been phased out and isn’t being replaced. Bernard replaces Jacob Saben, who had been chef de cuisine at The Publican since mid-2016.
For Publican fans, what will that actually mean? Bernard is most excited to keep expanding Publican’s vegetable offerings, which don’t get nearly as much attention as their porky specials, but may actually be more creative and delicious. “I think with everyone being a little more health-conscious, focusing on vegetables is one of the things that attracted me to come back,” he says. Don’t be surprised if brunch also gets a little renewed attention, especially with all the morning work that Bernard did at Dove’s.
Of course, with Bernard leaving Dove’s (1545 N. Damen Ave., Wicker Park), that left that restaurant’s top spot open. It’s going to chef Tom Carlin, who has spent the last four years at Publican Quality Meats working as the sous chef and head butcher. “This is my first chef de cuisine job,” Carlin says. “I thought it could be a great opportunity for me—it’s a style of food I love, and a size I feel comfortable with.”
Carlin spent several years living in Texas, and is intimately familiar with the type of Tex-Mex comfort food Dove’s does best. In addition to continuing Dove’s brunch legacy, Carlin is most excited to reinvigorate Dove’s dinner service. “I’ve had a number of people come in since I started to say hi and say ‘I didn’t even realize Dove’s did dinner,’” he says. “It’s such a great experience to sit around and drink mezcal and listen to our record collection.”