Chef shuffle in Portland, Tempo Dulu’s opening chef departs

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Chef Klang

When Tempo Dulu opened in the Danforth Inn last June, head chef Lawrence Klang was a keynote. At the time, owner Raymond Brunyanszki said the concept for his upscale pan-Asian restaurant was inspired by the Le Cordon Bleu chef who worked for him at Natalie’s in Camden years earlier. “It all came together when Lawrence took the  job,” he excitedly told Urban Eye at the time.

Less then a year later Klang is out and Maine native Michael MacDonnell is in.

“Things happen in life. Lawrence has to move on. It’s better for the restaurant to get to the next level,” said Brunyanszki on Tuesday.

MacDonnell brings a solid immersion in Asian cuisine. He worked at the White Lion in Rockland and Valentina Coastal Maine Kitchen in Camden. Starting as a line cook at Natalie’s he worked up to sou chef. “It’s so much easier for him to be more complex. He’s married to a Thai woman and has spent months in Thailand with her family,” said his boss.

The door for MacDonnell opened when Klang tendered his resignation in late March. His last day was April 2. The reason wasn’t performance based.

“I love Tempo Dulu and will always love that restaurant. It is and was very important to me. I really, really appreciated Oscar and Raymond entrusting me to be part of the process,” said Klang, who has been a chef for 20 years and worked in resorts all over the world including Asia. “It was our pleasure to cook there.”

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A Klang-inspired tasting menu

A pivotal reason for his stepping down had nothing to do with stovetops or menus. The suicide of a neighbor, who leapt from the sixth floor window in a downtown Portland apartment traumatized his wife. She could no longer stay in Portland and moved back to Florida, said Klang.

However, during the 14 months he worked for Tempo, he felt “underutilized. I like being trusted to do my job. I had more experience than anyone in the building, but was not utilized at the end of the day.”

Meanwhile Brunyanszki is ready to move forward and work with MacDonnell on a new menu, featuring “more surprises,” for dinners in his posh West End restaurant.

“Lawrence was good at starting the restaurant and understood the direction we were going. He understands his flavors. Michael brings the next level. Michael is an Asian chef and Lawrence isn’t,” said Brunyanszki. “It’s very hard for a chef with Cordon Bleu training to be an Asian chef.”

A new menu is under development and will be revealed in mid-May. The lobster tasting menu stays and the bar offerings will expand.

Will Klang end up at the range of another Portland eatery? We hear Shannon Bard is hiring.

“I have a few things in the works,” he said. “Looking at something abroad and in New Orleans.”

We wish him well and look forward to Tempo 2.0.

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.