Just like the tasty synergy of peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, or hot potato and cold potato, two news items about the chef Jeff Mahin converge at once. First, the California-based culinary talent behind the successful Santa Monica restaurants Stella Rossa Pizza Bar and M Street Kitchen will compete on ABC’s reality show The Taste, premiering this Tuesday with Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson. Second, Mahin (England’s The Fat Duck, New York’s Nobu) will again team with his partners in SoCal, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, to lead the creative team in developing the former Tilli’s space at 1952 North Halsted Street, and to open a new restaurant in Hollywood in the upcoming months.
As Lettuce’s top taco, Rich Melman, announced previously, two restaurants are slated for the space. A Chicago version of Stella Rossa with a different name will occupy one half. In the other half, a longtime wish of the chef Francis Brennan (L2O) and Mahin, both from California, will materialize—a California restaurant. “They have been bugging me for the last couple of years: ‘When are we going to do a California restaurant?’” Melman says. “With a real California sensibility—it’s real because of them.”
People have already noticed Mahin, 29, at the launching pad. Both Forbes and Zagat named him to their food-world 30 Under 30 lists, and the trade pub Restaurant Hospitality called him one of 13 to watch in 2013. “He is going to be the hottest kid in the country when this is all said and done,” Melman says.