Earlier this month, chef Lee Wolen announced he’d be leaving his position with the Peninsula Hotel, where he ran the Lobby. That unassumingly named restaurant wowed Chicago’s food critics—and the tire people awarded it a star in this year’s Michelin Guide.
Today, he announces he’s partnering with the Boka Restaurant Group, whose properties glisten starrier than a van Goghian night—including Girl & the Goat, Balena, GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant, and Wolen’s new stomping grounds, Boka.
Boka’s cofounders, Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm, glow when they talk about Wolen:
Katz: “[A while ago,] he sent us a note wishing to explore an opportunity with us.[We realized] this guy is so talented, but we were in the throes of opening seven places in three years.”
Boehm: “We knew he was a great guy and worked at a great restaurant [Eleven Madison Park, in New York]. So imagine how we felt when we ate at the Lobby.”
Katz: “Lee is coming in not just as a chef, but as a partner. We feel very strongly about his talent and his potential and where he’s going. It was an easy decision.”
Boka will close in January for renovations, to reopen with a new look and Wolen’s menu in early 2014. Boka’s name, derived from Boehm’s and Katz’s last names, will not change. Good thinking—Bokawo sounds a little strange.