What's Eating Gilbert?

Former Luqa chef David Gilbert has moved on to bigger and better things -- how many, he ain't sayin' just yet.

Chef David Gilbert, the talented young chef who got ensnared in the Luqa debacle downtown, has landed with Jack Baum and his restaurant management firm Food, Friends and Company, which operates 13 restaurants in nine states, including Cozymel’s, Wapango, and Mexico Cantina. Baum is also founder of the Canyon Restaurant Group, Newport’s and Hampton’s restaurants, plus the private equity firm Sagebrook Technology Partners.

Gilbert’s newest challenge is Woodlands Grill, an upscale Houston’s-type concept (soon, every restaurant will be a Houston’s variant) that is opening simultaneously this fall in suburban Chicago and at Preston Road and Forest Lane. There’s also an unconfirmed rumor that Baum is opening an upscale restaurant come June in a new building going up near the Crescent that will be Gilbert’s personal dining canvas. On this subject Gilbert’s lips are sealed, except for some tedious “no comment” jargon.

Meanwhile, the bankrupted and shuttered Luqa/Petrus lounge complex on Main Street, where Gilbert once worked, has been transformed into The Ivy Lounge, a two-floor nightclub open Thursday through Saturday that morphs into a banquet hall Sunday through Wednesday.

To pull this off, Luqa owner Obi Obeto partnered with David Taylor, who once had an interest in The Walrus Restaurant & Bar near the Dallas World Aquarium with entrepreneur John Reardon, and sold off its four-story Main Street building while retaining a 75-percent interest in The Ivy Lounge to Taylor’s 25 percent. “He’s just basically taking a step back, so that we can move two steps forward,” say Taylor. Wonder if this ticks off a few of those on the Luqa team who claim they haven’t been fully paid? Naaah. --Mark Stuertz

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