Executive Chef at Grant Achatz’s Next Has Abruptly Left

James Beard Award nominee Jenner Tomaska is out and a replacement has not been named.

alinea next retrospective Photo: courtesy Next

There has been an unexpected shake-up at one of Chicago’s best restaurants. In a story first reported by Eater Chicago, Jenner Tomaska, the James Beard Award finalist and executive chef  of Grant Achatz’s Next, is out.

We contacted Alinea Group’s co-owner Nick Kokonas (the group includes Michelin three-star Alinea, Roister, The Aviary, and Next), and he offered only the following statement: “The Alinea Group and Jenner Tomaska have parted ways.”

Tomaska gave a similarly short statement to Eater.

The young chef took over at Next after James Beard Award-winner Dave Beran moved to Los Angeles to open his restaurant Dialogue. Tomaska started in at Next 2011, rising up the ranks to become Beran’s lieutenant of the experimental restaurant.

Tomaska flourished in a restaurant that’s not like many others. It’s common for places to change their menus for the season, but Next has taken it to a whole new level. Four times a year, the team scraps their dishes, then builds a completely new menu around a different theme. During one season the restaurant focuses on classic French, and another the team cooks modern Chinese food. Currently, Next is serving a retrospective on Alinea, featuring the restaurant’s greatest hits from its 2011-2015 era.

Since taking over for Beran, Tomaska has earned four-star reviews from the Chicago Tribune’s food critic, and has twice been nominated for Rising Star Chef at the Beard Awards.

While neither side is offering much in the way of information, the abrupt departure is out of character for the restaurant group. When Alinea’s executive chef Mike Bagale left earlier this year, the staff had known six weeks prior that he would be moving on, and a successor, Simon Davies, was introduced to the public. But that is not the case in this instance, as no replacement for the executive chef position has been named.

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