Chef shuffles are common, and usually aren’t worth a whole story. But when a chef with Joe Flamm’s resume teams up with an already-awesome restaurant like BLVD Steakhouse, it’s worth sitting up and taking notice. Flamm has already gotten a lot of attention for his work at Sancerre Hospitality’s other restaurant, Rose Mary, but now he’s taken the reins as Culinary Director for the entire group.
If Flamm’s name is familiar to you, it’s because he’s worked, well, everywhere. He’s done time at Table 52, Girl and the Goat, and Urbanbelly, but most notably, he was executive chef at the Michelin-starred Spiaggia (oh, and also the winner of Top Chef season 15). He left Spiaggia in October of 2019, and his next step was supposed to be opening Rose Mary in early 2020. You can probably guess how that went. “I was a stay-at-home dad for about 18 months,” recalls Flamm.
Rose Mary finally opened in April of 2021, and as it continued to get positive attention, the owners of Sancerre Hospitality approached him about taking over at their ultra-glam steakhouse a few blocks away. “We found out that we worked really well together,” says Flamm. “So we thought, let’s see how it works to bring everything under one umbrella, create a common identity.”
Unlike some “quick, things are a mess, bring in a new chef” situations, BLVD was doing quite well before Flamm entered, so he wasn’t about to start messing with things. “You have to kind of live in it for a while, it’s like buying a new house; you can’t walk in and start changing things.” He made some new hires, he spent a lot of time in the kitchen, and then he started to dive in. His goal is to keep the steakhouse dishes that make BLVD so popular, but bring some of his own style, which he describes as “simplicity and elegance.”
One example of the new dishes is a savory halibut filled with seasonal flavors like mushrooms, fava beans, English peas, and mint — it’s both hearty and fresh, in a way that provides a welcome contrast to the red meat on the menu. “It’s not 100 things on the plate, it matches the room: Refined but still fun and approachable,” says Flamm. He’s modified many other dishes too, all with the same goal — making them seasonal, ingredient-focused, and a little bit simpler.
What’s next for BLVD and Flamm? He’s got some cool ideas for dishes that fit with the steakhouse theme but mix things up, like a whole porterhouse menu, complete with beef, pork, and lamb steaks — who else in Chicago is serving a lamb porterhouse? If you’ve walked around the neighborhood, you might have seen the announcement that a sprawling patio is being built next to BLVD. It probably won’t be open until the fall, but it’s coming, and will provide the ideal outdoor spot in the West Loop to sip rosé and slurp oysters (or have a full bone-in ribeye).
“What’s great about Rose Mary and BLVD is that they are elegant, but don’t have to be wildly serious,” Flamm says. “BLVD should be a really fun place to go, and I want the food to always mirror that.”