Chefs Erling Wu-Bower, left, and Cosmo Goss are opening a restaurant together.
Two of One Off Hospitality Group’s star chefs — Erling Wu-Bower of Nico Osteria and Cosmo Goss of The Publican — are leaving their respective posts to form a new restaurant group.
And in a pleasant twist, the group — to be called Underscore Hospitality — immediately announced a partnership with its former employers.
Wu-Bower and Goss will be equal partners alongside One Off director of strategic operations Joshua Tilden and One Off principals Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia and Terry Alexander in Underscore Hospitality’s first restaurant, which doesn’t have a name yet but does have a location: the River North space that formerly housed Tavernita (151 W. Erie St.).
"We’ve been talking about this for a good year or so," Wu-Bower said. "The concept, itself, we’re calling American hearth cuisine: cooking uber-seasonal food inspired by the fire, letting that spirit of California artisanal ingredients really speak."
"For us, it’s paramount to our vision to support our team members," Kahan said about the partnership. "From the first interview, we look for people who someday want to open their own restaurant, and when this opportunity came about (for Wu-Bower and Goss), we wanted to support it any way we could."
The two chefs will remain at their respective restaurants for now, although the search for replacements is on. Tilden will continue to serve at both One Off and Underscore.
"We’re such a chef-centric society," said Madia, "but Josh has such a vast understanding of food, numbers and operations, it would have been just as difficult to lose him. We’re excited to continue to utilize Josh in that ‘unspoken’ area."
There is no specific departure date for either chef. "I think we’ll be in our positions for the next six to eight months," said Goss. "And then we’ll jump in."
"This restaurant," Wu-Bower said, "is going to be awesome."
Phil Vettel is a Tribune critic.
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