In a surprise move that launches a five-month-old restaurant into the role of this city’s most intriguing steak house, Jackie Shen has become chef of Chicago Cut Steakhouse (300 N. LaSalle St.; 312-329-1800). If it sounds like a strange fit for the Hong Kong–born restaurant veteran, Shen, you may recall, dabbled in red meat before, during a seven-year stretch at Lawry’s The Prime Rib (100 E. Ontario St.; 312-787-5000). Her new boss at Chicago Cut, David Flom, used to go to Lawry’s once a week as a kid and has always been enamored of Shen. “I have been chasing her for about a year,” says Flom, who has been running the kitchen at Chicago Cut until he found a replacement. “I wasn’t going to take just anybody. I wanted someone who was going to be awesome.”
And Shen, whose long and eclectic career includes stints everywhere from Le Français to a diner in Old Irving Park, is pretty awesome. (Most recently, she earned Red Light (820 W. Randolph St.; 312-733-8880) three stars from Chicago before departing in November 2010.) While she promises to “add different ingredients” to Chicago Cut’s menu, Shen, 58, won’t touch the steaks. “People think that when [a] chef goes to a place that the chef is going to fix something, create something, or change something,” she says. “I am going there to learn something. And hopefully I will be able to enrich others.”
Meanwhile, these are tough times at Red Light, which recently lost Ryan Fowler, the chef hired to replace Shen last month. KDK, the company that owns the West Loop spot (and recently closed Opera and Marché) is currently searching for another replacement.