by Rock ‘n Roll Ghost
The space where Chicago restaurant Mado stands will not be going to Chef Brandon Baltzley after all. In a Rock ‘n Roll Ghost exclusive, Baltzley states that there were differing opinions on what the space was worth.
Now that Baltzley’s efforts to take over Mado have ended, he’s focusing on searching for a new space, private functions and seeing what else is out there for him in the culinary world.
Baltzley came to Chicago earlier this year from New York City, getting his feet wet at Grant Achatz’s three Michelin starred Alinea and then at Schwa before taking over the Executive Chef role at Mado that was vacated by Rob and Allie Levitt, (Rob Levitt’s The Butcher and Larder is due to open in the very near future). The 25 year-old chef overhauled Mado’s menu, opening up the Levitts’ Mediterranean small and large plates to a more global reach.
But not for long.
After what co-owner David Richards referred to as the “honeymoon month” in an interview with Chicago Magazine, the restaurant abruptly closed. Why? It started when Richards felt that Mado’s profitability wasn’t there and that staff cuts were needed. He first wanted his Executive Chef to fire two people and then, according to Baltzley’s interview with Chicago, Richards changed his mind, telling him to cut their hours down to weekends at an hourly wage. Baltzley was certain that the employees would simply quit instead of taking a demotion of hours and pay.
After a staff meeting where everyone agreed to leave, Baltzley started taking meetings with investors in the hopes of purchasing the space from Mado’s owners. Obviously, those hopes have died.
In the aftermath of the press the story received, Baltzley had made plans for an underground dinner that took place this past Friday, December 17th. But he pulled out of the dinner at the last minute due to disagreements with staff (some of whom bailed on the event earlier), but the dinner still went on in his name.
Now, Baltzley is fielding calls from headhunters, who hope to lure him back to the East Coast, but he says he’s not done with Chicago and will stick to his “pattern of self-destruction”. He is still searching for an opportunity here, despite feeling “burnt out”.
There is little doubt that Baltzley will find a place to lend his considerable skills, but what of Mado? No word on what will happen there now that Baltzley is officially out of the equation. We’ll keep you updated when we hear more.
Chef Brandon Baltzley’s full statement to Rock ‘n Roll Ghost about the end of his dealings with Mado and what he has in store:
The easiest way for an up-and-coming chef to get noticed in NYC is obvious: move to Chicago. When I took the position at Mado I knew it was possible career suicide, but I thought that it was worth it. We put so much work into the restaurant that it felt like it was ours. When we decided to leave, buying Mado seemed like the only option. Through brief negotiations with the owners and differing opinions on what the restaurant was worth, I decided we would look elsewhere. In light of the shit storm of media coverage, we organized an underground dinner that I pulled out of last minute due to fundamental disagreements with staff, not to mention a brief psychological breakdown. As a 25 year-old, I’m told I benefit from resilience, so being already burnt out is not a good sign… no matter how long I’ve been in the industry. The easy way out would be to go back to NYC and pick up where I left off. Although I’ve been contacted by headhunters hoping to relocate me back to the East Coast, I am not done with Chicago yet. Besides, I don’t think Chicago is done making an ass of me. My experience in Chicago has been humbling, to say the least, and I like that. Sticking to my pattern of self destruction, I’m going to stay. I am looking at other spaces for a restaurant and using this time to tap into other culinary outlets.