Grace, a Celebrated Chicago Restaurant, Closes After Its Founders Leave

The end comes for a dining destination with three Michelin stars; the chef and the general manager fell out with the owner.

Comments: 73

  1. Kudos to the New York Times for breaking a Chicago-based restaurant story. It appears that the chef and general manager wanted to buy out the founding investor, but that a deal could not be concluded. Would be interested to know the details of what transpired.

  2. I'd say you're more likely to see Trump's REAL tax returns than you are to find out about this "deal".

  3. It's hard to understand why the NYT included information about the troubled young life of Mr. Duffy as it has nothing to do with this event.

  4. There's always grilled cheese. (Served with a nice Cotes du Rhone, of course.)

  5. I like the way you think.

  6. Why does he have to consult with a legal team? They can't enforce a non-compete if they're not in business anymore.

  7. If he created any recipes, etc while working at Grace, then those are owned by the restaurant's management. He has to be careful what he chooses to use in his new venture.

  8. This sounds like the money people attempting to control the talent—you know, the people who do the actual work. The money people would always rather close a business than acknowledge the source of its true success, since they measure success only in dollars. The money people always like to show who's boss. Would be interesting to know if this is an example of that familiar phenomenon.

  9. My thoughts are with the staff. While Mr. Duffy and Mr. Muser's efforts to purchase the restaurant failed I am sure they will have no difficulty finding other positions. Contrast the lives of customers who can afford $200+ per person dinners with the 40 people who suddenly have no jobs. A perfect example of how little control those on the lower end of the income scale have over their lives whatever industry they work in.

  10. What to the customers have to do with the employees? People at all levels of income have little control over their employment situation.

  11. I would not worry too much about those 40 people. I'm guessing the kitchen and wait staff at a 3 star Michelin guide restaurant have little trouble finding work at other expensive restaurants. We are not talking typical service sector jobs - I'm guessing the tips in these types of restaurants also don't qualify as "lower end of the income scale".

  12. My heart goes out to those who suddenly lost their jobs and their families. There are better ways than this to resolve disputes by those who have so much economic power over the lives of others. We are better than this - all of us.

  13. Who lost their family???

  14. #Blarg Working in a restaurant IS a "working family". Having spent over a decade in the business, one does not simply "leave" a job that forges life long, deep friends without some measure of pain.

  15. A more elegant path could have been forged. Is it so bad that they had to shut down completely, plunging 40 people probably making sub minimum wage (as is often the case in the restaurant world) into unemployment on the eve of the Holidays? Are these men's egos so large that they could not at least agree to close after the holidays and with one month's or even two weeks notice so that staff could find work elsewhere? In an age of celebrity chefs and high end dining and in an industry that is one of the fastest growing in the country, workers should have better protections than they do and employers should have at least a minimum responsibility to their employees. I'm pretty sure the investor, the Chef and the General Manager won't be scrounging pennies to pay rent this holiday season.

  16. You really think the servers at Grace were earning less than minimum wage?

  17. Thank you for this post! I was thinking the same thing as I read this article. These are not men I would trust to do business with in the future.

  18. Average wage for waiters in Chicago is about seven and a half an hour (with a range of 4.83 to 10). I don't know what the staff was making at Grace. I imagine they pulled in significantly more than than that with tips and maybe did relatively well. However, because they were likely on the books for anywhere between that 5 to 10, will pull in very little, if anything, from Unemployment. This during the holiday season, when, like the rest of us, they were buying gifts for family and loved ones. Maybe Grace was one of those restaurants that instead of expecting front of house to pull in 75% to 90% of their pay from tips, actually paid staff a living wage. I don't know, but this would be atypical. I've worked in service before and experienced something very similar. It was crushing. My argument is that the powers that be should have at least agreed to set a timetable for closure.Or at least done it after the new year.

  19. I don't care. I know many people are into this fancy restaurant thing, but I have never found that the fancier or trendier a restaurant is, the more I like it. I love going out to eat, like all different types of food, but, I simply do not believe more expensive food or that created or cooked by "famous chefs" is better. I argue with a good friend incessantly who believes some people have "sophisticated taste," but, they really just have their own taste, like everyone else, and think dining at known establishments is "better." We know from studies that expectations about what we are eating greatly influences what we think about food and people are incredibly easily fooled, including so-called experts. I actually have stopped saying it to people I know because it clearly upsets them to think that maybe they know what they like and can even tell the difference between similar foods, when the evidence is very strong that they usually can't. Going to nuke some leftovers from Thanksgiving for lunch and looking forward to it.

  20. I agree that more expensive does not mean better. But sometimes a really expensive meal is so clearly great and just so much better than anything you can get in a more moderate range. Just the ingredients, what it takes to prepare, the fact that this kind of food usually (Schwa in Chicago is one exception) cannot be served in cheap surroundings That said, if you are microwaving food from a month ago and acting like that is a good thing, then I just feel bad for you.

  21. Month-old leftovers? Hmmm.

  22. @david e.... You don't like it? Okay...wonderful. But why, and for what purpose do you insult the people who create such edible master work or those who enjoy it? Just as this style of food isn't "your type" or "your taste" gives you little reason to publicly denounce it. Stop arguing with your friend and accept different people can appreciate different things....

  23. Great sympathy to the staff who also are unemployed. Great chefs always have a future in Chicago--a great dining town. (What could be better on a brutal winter night than a cozy, wonderful meal?)

  24. Always sad when a restaurant closes. In my home town, a place that has been open since 1953, the first Cantonese restaurant in my town, is closing on 1/1/18. The landlord died, and the new landlord wants to tear everything down. Hopefully all of the staff at Grace find new positions.

  25. Here in NYC, I'll take a reliable, neighborhood Greek diner over some trendy restaurant any day.

  26. @Mark: How many of those are left? I thought the money people who are putting pharmacies and bank branches on every corner in NYC were putting reliable neighborhood Greek diners out of business.

  27. @Mark Good for you.... But if you read the article, it's about Chicago, NOT New York. It's about Grace, not some trite over done spanakopita and stale pita joint...

  28. I've worked for years in restaurants and real estate development. I've known very few real estate developers that had consciences, much less souls. They usually have a righteous justification for ANY self-serving action they take, no matter how craven. Not sure of the details here, but all of my experience says these guys are getting away from a bad deal from Olszewski.

  29. Reminds me of a favorite saying: "He was a good cook, and as good cooks go, he left."

  30. I hope Mr. Duffy and Mr. Muser are able to open another restaurant. But please, make it more accessible to the common person. It is only the very, very wealthy who can afford a tasting menu that tops $200 a person.

  31. @Tortuga: Why? I love good food, and I can't afford that. But I also don't see there being any right to enjoy a tasting menu that's over $200/person. I'd assume that, to get Michelin stars, you have to use particular types of very expensive materials and pay your exalted staff more. Isn't that the way that game is played? Poor folks like us can find other delicious things to eat, rather than ask them to take a loss (or too slim a profit for them to deem worthwhile).

  32. Not a very graceful exit.

  33. It is mightily difficult to create something extraordinary, and it takes big egos and an indomitable character --and that naturally can create amazing success but also great conflict. May Mr. Duffy and Mr. Muser create something great again --however, it is up to management to make it right for the many employees that now seem without a job. That, to close without notice and destroying the livelihood of many, before Christmas no less, speaks loud and clear of something rotten at the core of this now closed establishment.

  34. Creative minds the chef and the wine expert have a disagreement with the investor, a real estate agent about how the restaurant should be run. Shocked that anything could have possibly gone wrong with that arrangement.

  35. Take all of the food that remains, pay some cooks and servers, prepare and serve the food -- to the underprivileged and underserved residents of Chicago. For free and for the good of all involved. Pour some of that fancy, curated red wine, too, while you're at it.

  36. Not so concerned about Samantha B's angst. What about the 40 staff members who abruptly have no jobs, no income entering the coldest months of the year. How selfish of all three principals in this fiasco. Duffy, Muse and Olszewski should not only be ashamed of themselves, they should make provision to take care of those 40 loyal workers who contributed to the restaurant's success.

  37. On the upside, just image what all that great talent is going to do next. Not just Duffy and Muser, but all of the Pastry, Line and Sous Chefs...

  38. So three men who run/own an expensive, successful restaurant can't get along and as a result 40 people are out of work just before the holidays? Nice.

  39. Wow, this is a surprise. Dined there a couple of years ago, when it was a Michelin 2* (which seemed about right) ... sorry to see it close. Curtis seems like the type who will land on his feet though ... best of luck to him and his crew of cooks and servers.

  40. Because of this article I watched For Grace on Netflix. It was really a great movie and I highly recommend it.

  41. At $200 a plate, this is thunder on top of Mt. Olympus while the rest of us toil in the fields of Athens

  42. A businessman backing an artist. How could anything go wrong here?

  43. Has anyone seen Chef, the movie? This looks very much like the plot of that which (spoiler alert) ends well.

  44. I'll miss the bloomin' onion...unless maybe I've got Grace's menu confused with my other favorite restaurant.

  45. Sounds like a movie in the making, or has a movie already been made about something like this. Sounds familiar.

  46. And while the millionaire investor and celebrity chef do just fine in the wake, what happens to the "roughly 40 staff members" that arrived to discover they no longer had jobs?

  47. Whatever, brings to mind the deterioration of the Famous Drake Hotel in Chicago, opened in 1921, now franchised by Hilton to investors. You never know where and who the investors are in the Hotel restaurant business.

  48. In any of the world's modern and civilized countries, the staff would have guaranteed health insurance and other benefits to help them in this unfortunate time. Not in the US though. Capitalist greed rules the day. Wealthy customers get a courtesy call, employees get nothing.

  49. We recently did a private event here (for work). Guests loved it, but we didn't... The GM/wine person had the least hospitable attitude we've ever dealt with in planning any event. I would never wish this sudden closure on any restaurant staff, but if the service we received as paying clients/hosts was any indication, I'm not surprised it has closed. People who don't get along well with clients likely don't get along well with investors.

  50. Isn't there a different minimum wage for wait staff? Every wait person I've known has told me about the phenomenal amount of money they make in tips, how much they hide in cash, and how little tax they pay on their actual incomes too.

  51. three stars from a company that makes tires? Sorry, I don't care. Let them eat tires.

  52. There’s a history behind the Michelin guide. Yes, it’s about tires! They made guides of the best restaurants to go to when traveling. It was advertisements for their tires and great places to eat and it turned into this bible.

  53. "Under the guidance of Mr. Duffy and Mr. Muser, Grace became one of only 14 restaurants in the United States to be awarded three Michelin stars, and was one of the jewels in a city whose culinary star has been on the rise." Once again, the condescension of the NYT towards Chicago is on full display. Chicago has long had celebrated Michelin-starred restaurants, including Alinea, Charlie Trotter's, L20, Goosefoot, Topolobampo, and Schwa, so it's not exactly a culinary backwater despite the fact that a couple of these places have closed. Believe it or not, there is a great deal of sophistication to be found outside of the coasts and it is time for this paper to recognize this.

  54. What's the big deal with $2.5 million? I thought in Chicago that would be small change.

  55. I am watching For Grace after reading this article. I am not learning too much about the restaurant business, as this is a selective snapshot approach. Duffy could be an actor he does so well on camera. A little bit of Muser goes a long way...

  56. Leslee Reis' sudden death was also a tragedy for Chicago cuisine

  57. I'm glad it's closed. Junk food. Very expensive junk food, but still junk food. Every peasant wife cooks better.

  58. Blazing male egos in the restaurant business??? Really?

  59. When making new plans please consider these 3 words, DENVER, DENVER and DENVER.

  60. Amazing that a restaurant closure made front-page news!

  61. It's front page business news.

  62. I really feel for the servers and all the other staff who showed up for work to discover they no longer had a job. I certainly hope that the founders can find time to reach out to fellow restaurant owners to try to find jobs for those they abandoned. Otherwise, it's a heck of a Christmas surprise for all of of their devoted workers. The restaurant business is filled with self-absorbed owners. I'm hoping these guys are the exception.

  63. Never been to Chicago, never ate at Grace. But this article made me sad. It's always sad when dreams die.

  64. Chef Duffy's back story lends an otherwise missing human touch to this item...not sure why a Chicago restaurant's closing is such big news. Except that it underscores the classism, the gulf between the very wealthy and the rest of us who may live our lives out without one taste of truffle oil Preciosity characterises the New York Times, ineluctably the paper of the effete and wealthy while it does pay lip service to issues affecting the hoi polloi.

  65. No one is forcing you to read it.

  66. This is the food section, right? What kind of stories should one expect to read here?

  67. Suggested name for the follow-up eatery to be founded by the two departees: "Coup De Grace".

  68. First world crisis.

  69. Yes, indeed a first world crisis. But I'd rather deal with the news of a 3-star Michelin restaurant closing, than worrying about whether my martini is going to get me through the nuclear blast when North Korea decides to blow up the east coast. Thank you very much. Sometimes, first world problems are good problems, and DO need to be reported on. We can't focus on the Third World ALL THE TIME.

  70. A "tasting menu" (whatever happened to people actually going out to eat proper meals) at USD200? This obscenity merits coverage, really? Isn't Chicago to complex, dynamic, interesting a place for the NYT to waste time on stories of the city like this one?

  71. It's an article of great interest to those at the top who will take the lion's share from Trump's Tax Bill, Real Estate Developers (provisions too numerous to list), Hedge Fund Managers (Carried Interest)....

  72. I have $500 gift card from Grace! how can get in contact with the owner ? Did open a new place?

  73. I watched 'For Grace' and it was such an incredible sorry of survival. No wonder the news that 'Grace' has closed is so sad. (I just heard it from the Michelin owner/chef Damian Grey of Liath in Dublin) Everyone wants to believe in the dream, Please those commenting who have never eaten here nor watched the documentary, stop! You have no reason to speak until you watch this inspiring film. Good luck to Curtis Duffy and all those who worked there in their next venture. The problem is when you mix finance and brilliance - it's a recipe for disaster.