On the eve of the opening of Daniel Stern's R2L in Two Liberty Place comes word that Alex Ureña is out as chef de cuisine.
He's landed at Devil’s Den, a gastropub at 11th and Ellsworth Streets, and he's figuring out a new menu. Meanwhile, DD chef Allen Dann gave two weeks' notice. Sligo, a pub in Media, confirms that he will start this weekend.
Anyway.. Ureña arrived in Philly in November -- to a great huzzah from the New York Times -- after closing his own NYC restaurant, Pamplona.
"I decided to be a part of this great opportunity [at R2L]," Ureña told me. "But there was some delay in the opening, and that was a good thing. After I was there for more time, I realized it wasn't the right fit for me. I know the menu is good and Stern is a good chef and I respect him, but I didn't want to be unhappy or less than 100 percent focused."
He walked nearly two weeks ago. When word got out, he was approached to head the kitchen at Devil's Den, where Dann reportedly was growing antsy.
Ureña specializes mostly in American and European cuisines, having traveled and worked from France through the Mediterranean to Spain. His honors include: a 2000 James Beard nominee for “Best new Restaurant: Blue Hill,” a 2001 Gold medal winner, Culinary Excellence, American Tasting Institute, a 2006 Rising Star Chef Award, and 2006 Emerging Tastemaker Award, Food Arts Magazine.
Asked what he would do at Devil's Den, Ureña replied: "I just got here. I think we have to keep it simple. From my experience ... people want just simple, bistro-style food to match the bar."
A rep for R2L said Stern himself is running the day to day in R2L's kitchen.
(Post rewritten with more info.)