Acclaimed Chicago chef Rebecca LaMalfa will leave her post as chef de cuisine for Virgin Hotels to oversee the kitchen at downtown Detroit cocktail lounge Standby, co-owner Joe Robinson confirmed this week.

Known for small plates paired with a massive and nationally-recognized bar program, Standby will keep its current chef Jesse Knott on for the next few weeks to work with LaMalfa as she rolls out her new menu and hires and trains her staff, says Robinson.

Eventually Knott and his staff will move to the Skip, an open air cocktail spot located next to Standby in the Belt alley. There, Knott will operate a food cart and serve a variety of street food.

To those familiar with Detroit’s restaurant scene, the news of LaMalfa moving from Chicago to one of Detroit’s hottest new restaurants is not a surprise. Her husband is chef Tom Lents, who left Chicago restaurant Sixteen to run the kitchen at the newly-opened Apparatus Room at the Detroit Foundation Hotel, just a few blocks from Standby.

In June she served brunch for one day only at Mabel Gray in Hazel Park. LaMalfa was a contestant on season 12 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” along with Mabel Gray’s James Rigato. In spite of winning on the second episode, she was ousted in episode four along with Rigato.

This weekend LaMalfa, a California native, is cooking at Hamtramck’s permanent pop-up kitchen Revolver. She’ll serve a five-course vegetarian meal at 6 and 9 p.m. Fri. and Sat. (Friday’s dinners are sold out). Get tickets, $45, at

Standby was one of only 20 businesses in the country given a semifinalist nod for this year’s James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Bar Program. Standby is at 225 Gratiot, with an entrance in the Belt alley off Gratiot between Library and Broadway. It’s open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. Call (313) 736-5533.

(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Read or Share this story: