I feel like I write that headline at least once a year. Oh, I did a search, and it’s pretty close to true. Since Tiffanee and Richard Ellman of Apheleia Restaurant Group opened this restaurant in late 2011, they’ve been through five chefs. (I still miss Jason Maddy’s cooking.) Last night, Tiffanee told me they’ve hired Uchi veteran Jeramie Robison as the new culinary director/executive chef and Eric Salzer as vice president of operations. Robison will oversee Oak and ARG’s Quill in the Dallas Design District.
Should we be worried? Tiffanee isn’t.
“We have had a series of very unfortunate circumstances with some of our former chefs battling ‘personal demons,’ which disabled many to continue their tenure with us,” Tiffanee says. “I realize that the shift in kitchen leadership has created confusion in the marketplace at times, which is one of the reasons we are so ecstatic about both Mr. Robison and Mr. Salzer joining our team.”
The Ellmans feel Robison is their guy. The press release quote says so:
Richard Ellman, explains that “while we have always loved the ambiance at Oak, we felt that the five-year mark is a good time to change things up with a fresh new color palette and design scheme.” Mr. Ellman added, “unveiling the new look along with a new menu and culinary team headed by an amazingly talented chef is an exciting inflection point in the life of Oak. Given that our approach is diverse and broad, Jeramie’s unique experiences will be instrumental in guiding Oak’s kitchen to new heights.” Quill’s new menu, he explains, will feature “spontaneous, fun, and robust flavors and combinations ranging from Cajun family recipes to classic American favorites.”
I can only hope this will be the fix they’ve been looking for. Meanwhile, the Ellmans are busy opening a second location of El Bolero and adding Shodo, an Asian-influenced concept going in what was previously slated as Gravy 51 to their stable, which also includes The Royale Magnificent Burgers and Pakpao.
Meanwhile, Eve got a few details about the interior: Neutral cream and topaz tones will give way to reds and blues. Carpeting and lighting will get an overhaul, and in the most dramatic shift, the kitchen, which has heretofore has been tucked away behind a dividing wall with the signature oak-tree projection—a lithe work of visual art that changes with the seasons—will be opened up. And they’re adding a sushi bar.
Which is all part, also, of ushering in a new culinary impetus via Jeramie Robison, formerly chef de cuisine at Uchi, whose resume includes Shinsei and the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, beginning March 14. The new menu roll-out will follow “pretty quickly.” “Oak will still be global, new American contemporary food,” Tiffanee says.
Look for the signature tree to remain in some form—though in what form, exactly, remains to be seen.
Eve Hill-Agnus contributed to this report.