by Ian McNulty
The venerable contemporary Creole bistro Upperline Restaurant is in the market for a new executive chef for the third time in a year.
Chef Anthony Spizale, who took over as executive chef in April, recently left the restaurant to pursue another opportunity, Upperline owner and proprietress JoAnn Clevenger confirmed.
“It’s good news for him, sad news for us,” said Clevenger. She said she wasn’t at liberty to elaborate on her ex-chef’s plans, but called it “a once in a lifetime opportunity for a chef.” Spizale could not immediately be reached for comment.
His departure marks another twist for a restaurant where smooth and steady had long been the rule. While the menu always features daily specials, many of the mainstays here are well-established set pieces, from the fried green tomato with shrimp remoulade to the roast duck with garlic port. The Upperline menu emphasizes prix fixe, three-course meals.
The changes started last summer when chef Ken Smith left to become a priest after 19 years working at Upperline. In his stead, Clevenger hired Nathan Winowich, formerly chef at the House of Blues Foundation Room. Winowich started in September 2010, but by March he was out and Upperline announced that Spizale would be its new chef. Spizale started there a month later, coming over from the Rib Room, the restaurant of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, where he had worked since 1990.
Clevenger says Upperline is now interviewing for its executive chef position.
Despite changes at the helm, periodic visits to Upperline through the year showed the consistency for which the restaurant is known. And, as it has each August for many years, the restaurant is now serving its annual “garlic festival” menu, with selections of garlic-laden dishes from appetizers like gazpacho to an ice cream dessert with honey-poached garlic.