After nearly 10 years in Memphis and stints at several fine area restaurants, Jorge Noriega is leaving the Bluff City to take a sous-chef position at the Bistro at the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara.
Noriega and his wife Karen came to Memphis right after they graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in the spring of 1997. Karen had had an internship at the University Club and she returned to take job there (and, after taking other positions, works there today). However, it wasn't long before the couple took a job with Erling Jensen at his then newly opened eponymous restaurant on Yates. They also worked at EJ's Brasserie, River Terrace, and KoTo.
After KoTo closed in 2002, Karen took a job at the former Viking Culinary Arts Center and cooking school downtown. Jorge took the pastry-chef position at Wally Joe restaurant before leaving to help open Thomas Boggs and Ben Smith's newest eatery, Meditrina, last spring.
The Noriegas have made a culinary imprint on the taste buds of countless local diners. Farewell to Jorge, who leaves this weekend, with his wife hopefully joining him soon.
Robert Green, who has lived all over the country but calls himself a native of the South, came to Memphis in the spring to take charge of the kitchen at Boscos Squared.Green, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, most recently worked as executive chef at Parkside International Residential College at the University of Southern California.
"I have seen and worked in many kitchens," says Green. "From TGI Fridays to private clubs, hotels, small family-owned restaurants, and corporate headquarters, from casual dining to white tablecloth, and I've always wanted to come back to the South. My parents live in Memphis, and Boscos is really a great fit for me. That's why I made the move from L.A."
Diners will probably not see many changes to Boscos' menu right away. Green wants to get settled in with his team first. If you want to get a taste of Green's creations, however, keep an eye on the specials. "As far as my style goes, I'm really into contrast -- contrasting colors, textures, flavors," Green explains. "It's Louisiana- and California-influenced cuisine with a little Hawaii in there to kick it."
Boscos Squared, 2120 Madison (432-2222)
The Peabody hotel welcomes a new executive pastry chef. Konrad Spitzbart, originally from Austria, comes to The Peabody by way of Hollywood, where he reigned over the sweets at the Beverly Hilton.
Spitzbart began his career as a young boy when he peeked over the kitchen counter to watch his mom make Apfelstrudel and Kugelhupf. To get a better understanding of the basic cooking and baking techniques, he first turned to television cooking shows. Later, he apprenticed in several restaurants throughout Austria before moving to the United States in 1991, where he made the art of pastry his forte. Spitzbart's resume includes pastry-chef positions at the Ritz Carlton in Detroit, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and most recently the Beverly Hilton. As executive pastry chef at the Hilton, Spitzbart created desserts for many high-profile events, such as the Oscar and Grammy awards after-parties.
Spitzbart's first creation in Memphis -- a chocolate-covered peanut-butter banana cake that would have impressed Elvis -- wasn't just inspired by his new Southern surroundings. It's a creation that is reminiscent of a banana-and-vanilla cream cake that his mother used to bake when he was growing up. So, to Spitzbart, coming to the Peabody is like going back to his roots -- sort of.
The Peabody, 149 Union (529-4164)
Although River Oaks restaurant has only been open for a few months, it already has a new chef. Benjamin Vaughn, a Miami native and most recently of Yia Yia's Eurocafé, has now taken over the responsibilities of the kitchen. Before coming to Memphis, Vaughn cooked his way through Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and interned with Sarah Moulton at the Food Network. In Memphis, he was the chef at the Hilton, opened Dauphines in Bartlett, worked with Rick Farmer at Jarrett's, and, after a brief stint at Yia Yia's, was offered the lead position at River Oaks. So far, the focus of the restaurant remains upscale casual in a classic bistro setting.
River Oaks, 5871 Poplar (683-9305)
Scott McQueen, most recently of Automatic Slim's, has taken the chef position at Dish and added his own touch to the menu. Many of the house favorites, such as the pizza with fresh mozzarella and the cheese selection, will stay in place. However, McQueen will add his signature to the restaurant with several new items, including chicken and beef satés with coconut and red curry sauce, tempura prawns with sriracha aïoli and sweet soy reduction, peeled shrimp with chipotle cocktail sauce, and grilled seasonal vegetables on skewers.
Dish, 948 S. Cooper (276-0002)