Big News at Le Farm & The Whelk: Chef Changes & More

Stephanie Webster

CTbites has some big news for fans of James Beard nominated chef Bill Taibe and his Westport restaurants, Le Farm and The Whelk. Guests to both will find exciting changes and a couple of new faces in the kitchen at both of these Westport hot spots. Chef Arik Bensimon (The Spread, Napa) has already settled into Le Farm’s cozy chef's quarters, and Geoff Lazlo (Le Farm, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill Stone Barns) has moved from his post at Le Farm to head the busy kitchen at The Whelk. 

CTbites sat down with restaurateur and chef Bill Taibe to discuss the new starting lineup, and get some insight into the future plans for these immensely popular dining spots. 

When asked why Bill Taibe chose Arik for Le Farm, Taibe smiles and says "I’ve always been trying to get Arik over to Le Farm." Ever since Bill left Napa where Arik Bensimon worked as his sous, he knew he wanted to cook with him again. “We really clicked from day one,” says Taibe.  "Arik has a beautiful elegance and rusticness to his food style. Our food just makes sense together." Having worked together before, the chef and owner already have a strong understanding of each others styles and expectations. Taibe went on to explain that, "sometimes the way I do things is the harder way, and Arik understands, it takes a long time to do things right."  

Taibe confirms that the menu at Le Farm will change under Chef Arik, but using the existing language of Le Farm. "The dining experience at Le Farm is like a hug," says Taibe. "It is comforting, cozy, and the food reflects this sensibility and always will," but "I want Arik to take this menu and make it his own."

And what does Arik say about his new digs? "I love Le Farm because it is small... hands-on... I like that I can look out from the kitchen and see the entire dining room," says Arik. "I’m keeping the menu pretty traditional with French and Moroccan influences... of course locally focused, comfort food done really well." Pressed for any new dishes, Arik says, "There will be Hare Royale when the season comes, and you’ll see lots of braises."

While Arik settles in, another seamless transition will be taking place in Bill Taibe’s rapidly growing empire. Chef Geoff Lazlo, Le Farm’s chef for the last 4 months, is moving over to The Whelk replacing Chef Andy Hayes who decided it was time to move back home to Tennessee.  

"I always knew Geoff was better suited to a fast paced place like The Whelk," says Taibe. If Le Farm is like a "hug," The Whelk is like a "punch." This is how Taibe frequently differentiates these brands to his staff. "The Whelk is about the bar, the communal dining experience. Everything is louder, faster, and a little more aggressive (than Le Farm). The Whelk is a party...a civilized party," says Taibe.

In the meantime, General Manager Massimo Tulio, has some big plans for Summer at The Whelk. Doors will open at 4:30 PM during the upcoming months, giving diners an excuse to enjoy Whelk's creative cocktail menu a half hour earlier. Additionally, Massimo is working on some unique pairing events marrying oysters with spirits and wine. We look forward to whaever Massimo will bring. 

Join us in welcoming Geoff and Arik to their new kitchens.