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Chef Kocurek leaves Trace, headed to new Congress Avenue restaurant

Matthew Odam

Lawrence Kocurek has left his position as chef de cuisine at Trace at the W Hotel Austin and is heading to Counter 3 . Five. VII. to serve as the executive chef at the restaurant in which he is a partner.

The restaurant, located at 315 Congress Ave. in the space previously inhabited by Dress Shop downstairs from Swift’s Attic, will offer prix-fixe menus of three, five and seven courses (hence the name). The open-kitchen will serve as the restaurant’s centerpiece, with 26 counter seats encircling the kitchen.

Kocurek will be joined at Counter 3. Five. VII. by his wife, LeeAnn Kocurek, who will serve as the wine director. LeeAnn Kocurek previously served as sommelier at Jeffrey’s before taking time off to have the couple’s second child.

The restaurant will only have about a dozen employees, with the chefs preparing the dishes and serving the customers at their seats.

“I love to explain food to people,” said Kocurek, who said the chefs will be serving customers from inside the kitchen. “It’s kind of the best of both worlds.”

Kocurek says he came up with the concept for the “micro-restaurant” about a decade ago when he watched the way sushi chefs interacted with customers while he was working at Roy’s. The restaurant will have a “dinner party-esque atmosphere.”

“We wanted to think of something nobody’s really doing in town. We’re excited about everything we’re doing right now,” Kocurek said.

The restaurant, which is slated to open in January, is a partnership between Kocurek and Counter’s CEO Eric Earthman, who previously worked as executive chef at the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel.

Kocurek served as executive chef at the Hyatt Lost Pines before taking the Trace gig in February 2013. He was the third chef in as many years for the fine dining restaurant inside the W, and the hotel says it has yet to choose his permanent replacement.

“With a very busy season in swing, W Austin’s executive chef Riordan is taking the reins,” director of beverage and food, Nadine Thomas, said. “We will carefully explore our options for the chef de cuisine position, and in the meantime will maintain focus on Trace and the banquet kitchen serving great seasonal cuisine and guest service.”