Dennis Stover is the new chef at HotChocolate
It's been few years since Mark Steuer left HotChocolate, and so far, nobody has really replaced the guy—the savory side of the restaurant, which got rehabbed last year, has been held down by Mindy Segal and a rotating crew of other chefs, none of whom ever stuck around or made their mark the same way Steuer did.
Now, that seems to have changed. Segal has hired a new chef to handle the savory side of her restaurant, and wouldn't you know it—he was one of TOC's 20 Chefs To Watch.
His name is Dennis Stover. He was a sous at Big Star for two years; after that, he was the executive sous chef at Longman & Eagle. Last month, he was on the verge of taking a chef position in New York. But then HotChocolate called.
"Mindy and I talked for two hours that night," Stover says. He told the guys in New York thanks, but no thanks.
There are things that Stover won't be changing at HotChocolate. The burger, the crab cake sandwich, the mac and cheese. "There's no reason to change those things," he says. But Stover does plan to execute a broader level change. The food "is going to be more composed," he says. "And executed differently as far as the composition of the plate." If that sounds like HotChocolate is going fine-dining, well, maybe it is, a little ("I'm classically trained French technique," Stover reminds me). But Stover also has what he calls "hillbilly roots" (specifically: Kentucky) and an itch to make everything from scratch.
So at HotChocolate he plans to serve a sort of fusion: "It's like mom and grandma food, but taking techniques and giving it finesse." (But, he's quick to point out, "it has that refineness without being pretentious or overly plated with tweezers.")
So far Stover has made tweaks to many of the dishes on HotChocolate's menu but has not released a menu that is completely his own yet—that will come in about a month. If you're looking to taste what Stover can do in the meantime, you know what to do: Focus on the specials.