New chef to head kitchens at Mare Sol, C’Sons and more

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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Chef Spencer Ellen is set to make his return to LaGrange this fall as the executive chef of the Hudson Hospitality Group, taking on the kitchens of Mare Sol, C’sons, Beacon Brewing Co. and Tutto Pepe, an Italian restaurant coming to the Hillside in Winter 2023.

Ellen a native of LaGrange has been in the culinary industry since 2004. In that time, he has collaborated and been mentored in kitchens across the United States— from Chicago’s Three Michelin Star restaurant, Alinea, to some of the South’s most decorated restaurants.

Ellen said he is excited about coming home.

“I’ve been looking at ways to get back into LaGrange for about three years now. Chase Hudson and I have been discussing this for a little over a year and trying to try to make everything line up for everybody,” Ellen said. “After being gone from LaGrange for a decade, I am very excited to come home.”

Ellen caught the cooking bug when he was 14 and has been cooking professionally for 20 years.

“I learned how to cook in LaGrange. I started my restaurant career here, but my very first job was at Jim Bob’s when it first opened years ago. I also spent some time training under Cory Weibel when he was the executive chef at Highland Country Club,” Ellen said.

“Growing up, I don’t know that I saw cooking as a career. It was a job that you could get as a young kid, but I enjoyed it. It wasn’t until my late teens, early 20s, that I really started to grasp that you could make a viable enjoyable career out of it.”

He said his favorite part of being a professional chef is being able to work with his hands to create something special.

“The cool thing with food is that it hits all your senses from a reward standpoint. You get to work with your hands, your soul and your mind all simultaneously while taking care of other people,” Ellen said.

As he preps for his move from Naples, Ellen said he has a few goals in mind.

“My guests in the dining rooms are not numbers, they’re not statistics, these are people that I go to church with, that my nieces go to school with —  its friends and family. So, it makes it more personal. It’s not just a business anymore, it’s genuinely a community connection,’ Ellen said.

“I’ve had the privilege of seeing, working, and knowing the steps of service that you’d get in a big city, high-end restaurant, and I want to try to bring some of that back into LaGrange, where it fits so when people come and sit in our dining room, eat our food or sit up or and drink our cocktails, they won’t have to worry about anything other than just enjoying themselves.”

Ellen said he hopes to add to the charm of LaGrange.

“Every time I’ve come home to visit family something new was going on. I remember when they built Sweetland and how cool I thought that was and then to see it continue to succeed and bring half of LaGrange to their event is awesome,” Ellen said.

“When I walk downtown now, I’m not looking at empty storefronts, there is something everywhere from coffee shops, antique shops and more. I have watched Downtown Development Authority, DASH and different groups work tirelessly to make sure that they’re pouring back into the community and creating opportunities for people within the community, and I want to be a part of that.”