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Chef Shuffle Bonanza: Gitane, Range, Magnolia, More

Photos: Courtesy Gitane, Alicia Jenish

As restaurants enter the resolution-and-budget-influenced customer doldrums of January, it's usually time to step back and take stock. For some restaurants, that means renovations; for others, it can be time to make a new hire. And chefs are equally likely to get itchy feet. Indeed, there were so many chef shuffles this week that we're rounding them up in one gigantic Chef Shuffle Bonanza.

First up on the list is Gitane, which has decided to bring on Alicia Jenish as its executive chef. Jenish (Grand Cafe) originally was hired to be the group chef of owner Franck LeClerc's restaurants, overseeing the kitchens at Gitane, Cafe Claude's two locations, and Claudine. But when Gitane co-chefs Bridget Batson and Patrick Kelly both jumped ship within a few weeks of each other in the fall, Jenish was drafted into the kitchen to take over, and now the arrangement is permanent. LeClerc originally said he was seeking a new chef to take Gitane "to the next step," but under Jenish, it'll go back to its roots, focusing on the North African-influenced "gypsy cuisine" of southern Spain. The restaurant is moving away from fine dining, embracing a more rustic aesthetic, and introducing a happy hour from 5 pm onwards that offers free bar snacks with the purchase of a drink. [EaterWire]

Next up on the shuffle list is The Battery, the exclusive private club owned by tech magnates Michael and Xochi Birch that's drawn criticism for its Manhattan-style social snobbery. The club's restaurant, 717B, aspired to hire a Michelin-starred chef, but ended up flailing in its first month, losing both chef Jason Arbusto and GM Tex Doughty. Now a replacement has been announced: Justine Kelly, a Charles Phan lifer who's worked at the Slanted Door Group since 1996. [Inside Scoop]

Over at Magnolia's original Haight Street location, the vacancy left by chef Ronnie New (who's now at Comstock Saloon) has been filled by Kevin Clancy, who was actually a line cook on the restaurant's opening team. After rising in the ranks to become sous chef and then head chef, he departed for greener pastures in 2004, but is now returning a decade later to run the kitchen where he got his start. With a vet in the kitchen at Haight, owner Dave McLean can focus on getting his Dogpatch location, with chef Dennis Lee (Namu Gaji) running the Smokestack restaurant, finally open. [Tablehopper]

Meanwhile, the chef New replaced at Comstock, Carlo Espinas, is joining the team at Assembly, the forthcoming Santa Cruz full-service spot from Zachary Davis and Kendra Baker, who own the popular Penny Ice Creamery and Picnic Basket. Espinas is planning to serve "rustic California cuisine," and will be assisted in the kitchen by pastry chef Anna St. John, a longtime Penny staffer. Baker, who was once the pastry chef at Manresa, will also be a key player in the kitchen. [Inside Scoop]

Finally, Range has finally filled the long vacancy left by star pastry chef Michelle Polzine, who struck out on her own in Hayes Valley with 20th Century Cafe. Their new talent comes from just down the street: Colin Kull, who spent the past three years working with Chad Robertson at Tartine Bakery. A contributor to the recently published Tartine Book No. 3, which focused on the use of whole grains, Kull plans to bring the same aesthetic to Range, using spelt, buckwheat, kamut, and other ancient grains in dishes like a French mousse cake with millet and hazelnut flour and cardamom mousseline. [EaterWire]


842 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 Visit Website

Magnolia Pub and Brewery

1398 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94117 Visit Website


6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, CA 94108 415 788 6686