Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Why the chef change at Le Bec Fin?

Walter Abrams and Jennifer Smith are not officially "gone."

Why the chef change at Le Bec Fin?

In summer 2012, the crew at Le Bec Fin (from left): Shannon Corin, private events coordinator; Nicolas Fanucci, owner; Walter Abrams, chef; Jennifer Smith, pastry chef and Abrams´ fiancee; Vince Montagne, executive sous chef; and Steven Eckerd, sous chef. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
In summer 2012, the crew at Le Bec Fin (from left): Shannon Corin, private events coordinator; Nicolas Fanucci, owner; Walter Abrams, chef; Jennifer Smith, pastry chef and Abrams' fiancee; Vince Montagne, executive sous chef; and Steven Eckerd, sous chef. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)

If you want drama, follow the restaurant scene.

Among last week's big stories was the apparent sacking of Le Bec Fin executive chef Walter Abrams along with Abrams' fiancee, pastry chef Jennifer Smith, after only seven months under new ownership.

Today, as new chefs were named, came word from owner Nicolas Fanucci that Abrams and Smith are still affiliated with the ownership group but are now consulting with it on other projects. Fanucci and his attorney, Dennis George, declined to identify these projects, and Abrams did not return my messages.

They called the chef change a "mutual decision" and left it at that.

One can surmise that money had a lot to do with it; by jettisoning the higher-priced Abrams and Smith (even for consultant's pay) and promoting two sous chefs, some big money is off the books.

Fanucci said business has been very good on weekends. He said the addition of Saturday lunch (running it Tuesday to Saturday, instead of Monday to Friday) was a plus, as well.

The new chef, at least interim, is Steven Eckerd, a York County boy and former LBF sous chef whose resume includes turns at Daniel, Vetri, Osteria, and Fish after graduation from the Culinary Institute of America. Eckerd's role as LBF sous chef was to build relationship with local farmers.

The new head of pastry is Abigail Dahan, also part of LBF's opening team. She is a native of France and trained in Paris at Gerard Mulot. She then moved to the States, where she worked for the Ritz Carlton Philadelphia and Orlando. She then moved to the Park Hyatt Chicago as a supervisor and later was a sous chef at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas. As she started at LBF, she was also a featured chef on the Food Network’s Sweet Genius.

Fanucci said the menus would stay the course, though LBF will serve items from the main dining room's $150-a-head tasting menu, in a la carte form, at the bar downstairs. These dishes would supplement the French bistro menu served downstairs. Like the move to Saturday lunch, Fanucci said the a la carte offering was based on a customer survey. 

Fanucci said Le Bec Fin sommelier Philippe Sauriat has purchased the contents of an entire wine cellar from Burgundy. It's being imported now and should be available in March.

Michael Klein Philly.com
About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of philly.com/Food, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here. Reach Michael at mklein@philly.com.

Michael Klein Philly.com
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