Chef Departs Grand Award Winner Canlis for New Venture

As Brady Williams leaves the Seattle restaurant to open his own, Canlis begins the search for a successor. Plus, former Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises chef Doug Psaltis goes Greek with his Chicago opening, and a San Diego group debuts a spot in Little Italy

Chef Departs Grand Award Winner Canlis for New Venture
After six years at Seattle's Canlis restaurant, chef Brady Williams is moving on to a solo venture. (Jana Early)
Feb 11, 2021

Brady Williams, head chef at Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Canlis, is leaving his position at the end of February to work toward opening his own restaurant. The news was announced on social media last month with the Canlis brother-owners, Mark and Brian, thanking Williams for his role at the famed Seattle destination.

The brothers say that over the course of his six-year tenure, Williams was central in helping shape their vision of fine dining paired with environmental and community values. Though they’re excited for the chef’s new journey, it’s bittersweet. “You are trying to replace a one-in-a-million type of chef,” co-owner Mark Canlis told Wine Spectator. “You’re trying to replace someone who’s so talented and who's become so geared to us as an employee, and is like one of the brothers—a member of the family.”

Williams was introduced to Mark and Brian through a mutual friend in 2015 while working at Brooklyn restaurant Blanca. Though he was looking to open his own restaurant in Upstate New York at the time, he was instantly drawn to Canlis and started as chef shortly after.

His departure comes as Canlis has had to repeatedly reimagine its tasting-menu format amid the global pandemic, with innovative formats from a burger drive-through to interactive classes. “We’ve really enjoyed these past couple of months talking about the future of fine dining, the future of the restaurant industry at large, and how we can help shape and form it. It’s such a unique time for our industry,” Mark said.

He emphasizes the importance of finding a successor who can tackle ongoing shifts in the restaurant industry, and someone who can connect to people on a human level. “To find a good cook and to find a good leader is a rare thing, and so we look for a leader first and a cook second,” Mark said.

Williams is still in the early planning stages of his Seattle restaurant, but he says he’ll be taking a lesson from friend and Canlis wine director Nelson Daquip when shaping the wine program. “We will likely offer a well-curated but small list that emphasizes, but is not limited to low-intervention and small-producer wines while also providing something for every budget and palate,” Williams told Wine Spectator. He hasn’t settled on a wine director yet, but hints that he’s “not seduced by credentials that have traditionally defined the wine industry.”

“I want to work with a free thinker who is rigorous but doesn't take themselves too seriously,” Williams said. “Someone who is interested in creating something for the community. I do have someone in mind, but no names just yet!”—Taylor McBride

Chicago Chef Doug Psaltis Debuts Greek Spot with Personal Ties

Pastry chef Hsing Chen with chef Doug Psaltis
Pastry chef Hsing Chen will run the sweet side of the menu at chef Doug Psaltis' new Greek restaurant. (Courtesy of Andros Taverna)

Chef Doug Psaltis is back on the Chicago dining scene with Andros Taverna, his Greek restaurant coming to the city’s Logan Square neighborhood Feb. 12. The opening comes after Psaltis’ 2019 departure from his longtime chef-partner position at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE), which owns a host of Restaurant Award winners including brands like RPM and Joe's Seafood.

Andros Taverna will be the first venture under Andros Restaurant Group, Psaltis’ newly formed collaboration with Ballyhoo Hospitality, which owns Award of Excellence winner Coda di Volpe.

“This is full circle for me in a lot of ways,” said Psaltis, who grew up around his grandfather’s Greek diner in Queens, N.Y., before working in top kitchens around the country and then opening 21 restaurants with LEYE. “The last four or five projects I did, I realized I was like, ‘I wish this were Greek, I wish this were Greek … and then over the last year with some great time to reflect, it was more important for me to do a little bit less that meant a lot more.”

Carefully sourced, high-quality ingredients are the backbone of Andros’ menu. There’s a customized charcoal grill used for large pieces of meat and a wood-burning oven for whole-cooked fish and house-made pitas. Dishes include grilled octopus, lobster spaghetti and roasted lamb. Psaltis says this lighter, fresher approach reflects the type of food he’s enjoyed in Greece, as opposed to more Americanized, outdated versions “being so cheese-laden and heavy.”

Grilled octopus served with a lemon wedge
Expect simple dishes like grilled octopus at Andros Taverna, a restaurant chef Doug Psaltis named for the Greek island his grandfather is from. (Courtesy of Andros Taverna)

“The food that I’ve fallen in love with growing up as a kid traveling to Greece, and still when I got back there ... it’s simply prepared mezzes that are easy to eat and snack on, and completing that mezze experience with some of those distilled spirits,” he said, a nod to the extensive selection of ouzo and more. “And then we get going into the wine and the whole-cooked fish and the great vegetables.”

Wine director Kristin Francesco is managing the wine list of about 75 selections. Approximately 90 percent of those are from Greece, in addition to a page of reds and a page of whites from other Mediterranean regions. “We really just wanted to celebrate the country and show everyone what they have to offer,” Francesco said. She’s particularly excited about the Santorini section, featuring leading producers like Domaine Sigalas, which she plans to develop further with “back vintages and really fun, cool, rare bottles to show to people.”

Approachability is a major priority for Francesco, especially when dealing with a wine region that many guests aren't familiar with. To help, the list is organized by region, with descriptions of respective grape varieties and why each region is special, plus producer highlights. There are also descriptions listed with each of the 16 by-the-glass selections, all of which are Greek.

“We’re creating a place where Greek wine is able to be in the forefront,” Psaltis said, noting the timely relevance of the value-driven region, as he’s noticed a consumer shift toward more affordable wines. “We’re really excited to introduce that wine-and-mezze culture you’d find in Athens, and maybe Astoria, Queens, and give the spotlight on the stage for the wines that they’re deserving.”

Andros Taverna will open with limited indoor seating as well as to-go packages for Valentine’s Day, with available beverage options. Though no additional projects are currently in the works, Psaltis says his new group plans to expand in the future with “different expressions of Greek cuisine.”—Julie Harans

Restaurant Award–Winning San Diego Group Opens Allegro in Little Italy

Allegro's wine cellar; three plated shrimp
Allegro offers a classically focused wine program and dishes like shrimp with the chef's choice of sauce. (Courtesy of Allegro)

San Diego’s Little Italy welcomes a new restaurant to India Street this week. Debuting Feb. 14, Allegro is the latest venture from San Diego Dining Group (SDG), which owns four other establishments including Best of Award of Excellence winner Greystone the Steakhouse.

With executive chef Marco Provino at the helm, Allegro combines Sicilian influences with California’s local ingredients. Expect starters like bone-marrow bruschetta and octopus in a puttanesca sauce, followed by larger dishes like lobster cannelloni and Venice pork chop with a pan-seared porcini crust and fig-jam sauce. There are also several steaks, as well as a noteworthy number of vegan and gluten-free items. Wine director Giuseppe Gagliano will oversee a wine list of more than 150 labels. The selections highlight California and Italy, with heavy emphasis on Sicilian wines, plus some French picks.

The dining room features an open kitchen and a wine-storage display, but that indoor space remains closed for now due to local pandemic restrictions. Guests can instead dine on Allegro’s outdoor patio, set behind 15-foot vintage wooden doors and inspired by Tuscan lemon gardens.—Collin Dreizen

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