Table Talk: Chef Christian deLutis departing Alizee

After helping the struggling operation find its way, deLutis is moving on

May 19, 2010|By Richard Gorelick, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Christian deLutis has left Alizee, the turbulent restaurant space at the Colonnade.

Before his arrival last August, Alizee in its first half year of operation seemed to be just as jinxed as the other three tenants that came and went after the departure of the Polo Grill. DeLutis was brought in to take over the restaurant's kitchen as well as its catering operations, and has been credited with implementing a consistent and appealing American bistro menu.

His opening menu, which featured a healthy dose of homemade charcuterie, received a rare four-star review in this newspaper from Elizabeth Large.

DeLutis' is not a dramatic departure, say both sides involved, more a matter of him having accomplished what he was brought in to do, setting right a drifting operation. Alizee's general manager says that deLutis simply decided to move on to other adventures upon the expiration of a one-year contract, and deLutis likewise says that having gotten things started, he was looking for "something new."

Just what, deLutis hasn't decided.

DeLutis came to Alizee from Dogwood, where he was reunited with his Harbor Court Hotel mentor Galen Simpson, and he had previously worked at Corks and the Wine Market.

For the time being, according to David Edwards, sous chef John Carroll will be implementing deLutis' menu, and the other duties deLutis performed at Alizee will be divided up among house staff.

Dean on 'Top Chef': Among the 17 contestants on the coming seventh installment of Bravo's cooking competition show "Top Chef" is Baltimore's Timothy Dean. This edition was taped down the road in Washington, which happens to be Dean's hometown as well as where he started in the business, apprenticing with Jean-Louis Palladin at the Watergate Hotel.

Between then and his arrival in Baltimore in 2005, Dean collected a resume full of other notable collaborations, including an interlude in Paris with Alain Ducasse and a return to Washington, where he ran his own restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel.

Dean opened Prime steakhouse this year in the Fells Point space where he previously ran Timothy Dean Bistro and its ill-starred successor, TD Lounge. Things have not always gone smoothly for Dean in Baltimore. But if people have questioned his business acumen, very few have disputed his talent at the stove.

Who can say how well Dean will do on the show? Skills do matter, but the competition involves many tasks that have nothing to do with anything except creating quickly under pressure, which is not really a skill at all but an attribute, and entirely different from the kind of careful and thoughtful planning and stamina that distinguishes the best chefs. It is good television, though.

The new season begins June 16 on Bravo.

Quiet closures: Two restaurants closed so quietly that weeks went by without my hearing anything. It was only when I walked by them that I found out. Little Italy's Tapabar, which was reviewed very warmly in these pages when it opened in fall 2008, closed up shop in March.

"We were lonely, but had we had a good meal," the review said, presciently. I never made it there but heard positive things about it from the few people who did. With the benefit of hindsight, I'd attribute at least part of its problem to the restaurant's physical presence on Eastern Avenue. It's just not a very welcoming exterior. I think Tapabar is a hard name to remember, too, especially in a town swimming with tapas restaurants.

The other closing was also on Eastern Avenue but seven blocks away in Fells Point. After a six-year run, the Ecuadorean restaurant La Cazuela closed. I haven't found out why, but it's not necessarily because business is bad. This is a restaurant that I reviewed favorably and which I recommended any number of times to people who were looking for low-priced, adventurous dining. But the truth is, I seldom made it back there. I'm always interested in what makes a plain and unadorned atmosphere work in one place (say downtown's Mekong Delta) but not in another.

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