by Chris Potter
Brasserie 33, one of the city's handful of French restaurants, closed its doors on Ellsworth Avenue last week. But fans of its classic approach to French cuisine need not despair: Head Chef Jeremy Hickey has already found a new home, at the South Side's Bridge Ten Brasserie.
Hickey had been working at the Shadyside restaurant since it was opened in September 2010 by Omar Mediouni, who'd previously operated nearby La Casa and Downtown's Casablanca. Mediouni could not be reached for comment, but Hickey says the Brasserie closed for financial reasons. "I was so sad," he says. "For a long time, we were able to fill that place up on weekends. And then the empire just crumbled."
La Casa, a tapas place just down the street from Brasserie 33, closed late last year.
But Hickey has landed on his feet. Brasserie 33 closed last Wednesday, he says -- and by Thursday, he had a job with David DeSimone, whose Bridge Ten has operated since last September alongside the Holiday Inn Express at the foot of the 10th Street Bridge.
Hickey's influence has yet to be felt in his new kitchen: He says he's just been familiarizing himself with the staff and menu, and probably won't seek to introduce changes until next week. In any case, he says, he doesn't plan a dramatic overhaul of Bridge Ten's already well-regarded French menu: "There's not going to be any major changes, it's just going to be adding a few things" -- most of which will underline the kitchen's commitment to classic French cooking.
"They have coq au vin and roasted half-chicken but not beef bourguignon," Hickey says, by way of example. "And they need a morel sauce for the filet mignon -- in French cuisine, it's all in how you make your sauce."
Hickey's adherence to French tradition has been a constant in a restaurant niche that has seen considerable turmoil, including the loss of longtime standout Le Pommier -– the victim of a 2011 fire -- and the former Le Perroquet, another Shadyside French eatery where Hickey worked alongside a chef he calls one of his mentors, Andre Lamar. "When I think of French food, I think of all the stuff my old French chef used to scream at me about," Hickey says. (Le Perroquet's legacy also lives on at East Liberty's Bistro 66, which after opening in 2009 is now the city's elder statesman of French dining.) But Hickey says he's got a good feel for his new home, operated as it is by DeSimone, a well-known name on the city's fine-dining scene.
"Bridge 10 will be a very nice place," says Hickey, "and I plan to be there for a very long time."