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Posted at 5:30 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Meet John Critchley, Urbana's new executive chef

By Justin Rude

After Alex Bollinger left the kitchen at Urbana in late October, the restaurant had been chugging along without an executive chef. That changed last Wednesday when John Critchley, most recently of Miami's Area 31, took over. Critchley, a 33-year-old native Bostonian, made a name for himself in 2005 when he helped Ken Oringer open Bean Town tapas bar Toro.

Though Critchley will maintain Urbana's focus on the cuisines of northwestern Italy and southeastern France, he will be drawing on his experience at Area 31 with simple, Mediterranean seafood dishes. "Around March we plan to roll out a new menu," Critchley says, "but you will definitely see changes by the end of the year, like seafood stews and some other richer, hardier seafood components." But the chef is quick to point out that he doesn't plan to focus directly on seafood. "It's going to be a little richer, with a little more tomato broth and definitely more lamb," he says. "It's almost a Provencal style of cooking."

In addition to the general menu, the chef plans to revisit the bar menu, where one would hope his experience with small plates would shine through. Another good sign for the bar? Critchley quickly identified the wood-fired stone pizza oven as a piece of equipment that could see more use.

Until he is more firmly in tune with the local dining rhythms, Critchley has tapped his fellow Kimpton Hotel group chefs Firefly's Daniel Bortnick and Poste's Robert Weland for advice on sourcing local ingredients. And although this isn't the best season for produce pickings, Critchley did say he was excited about "local sea bass and Maine sweet shrimp, and it's a great time of year for oysters, clams and mussels."

By Justin Rude  | December 7, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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