Norman Fenton, executive chef at Tom's Oyster Bar and Ale Mary's Beer Hall in Royal Oak, is moving on to Chicago this month. Fenton will join the team at world-renowned Fulton Market cocktail lounge The Aviary, owned by Alinea Group's Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas.
Fenton was named executive chef Tom's and Mary's last September and gave both eateries updated menus. However, he couldn't pass up an opportunity to work in a high-caliber restaurant in a larger market. "It's one of those experiences where you've got to take a step back to take a leap forward," he adds. "It's something I need to do to get to where I want to be in my career."
Visiting The Aviary in January, known for its fusion of molecular gastronomy and mixology, was an "eye-opening experience" for Fenton. Compared to Metro Detroit's somewhat transient restaurant market, "everybody who was in the kitchen [at The Aviary] wanted to be there and they would do whatever they could to stay there and work and everybody worked just as hard as the person next to them," he says. Fenton last day at Tom's Bistro and Ale Mary's is March 20. He'll join The Aviary as Chef de Partie on April 1. So far, Tom's and Ale Mary's have not named his replacement.