Chef Kent Rathbun is the name behind Abacus, Hickory and Jasper's. He won't be in the kitchen as much now that he is become more of a silent player in Kent Rathbun Concepts. 

Chef Kent Rathbun is the name behind Abacus, Hickory and Jasper's. He won't be in the kitchen as much now that he is become more of a silent player in Kent Rathbun Concepts. 

G.J. McCarthy

Since fine-dining restaurant Abacus opened in Dallas nearly 20 years ago, Dallas chef Kent Rathbun has been the face of the place. "Abacus was my first baby," Rathbun says.

Rathbun's role with that restaurant, as well as the other restaurants under the Kent Rathbun Concepts umbrella, is changing rather dramatically. Rathbun will no longer be involved in day-to-day operations. The chef confirmed he is "pursuing some other opportunities" and will remain a partner in Kent Rathbun Concepts but will not be involved in a more hands-on way.

[UPDATE: Rathbun has since sued his business partner, saying he signed away his name and likeness rights "under duress." Business writer Karen Robinson-Jacobs has the story.]

Hickory is Rathbun's most casual restaurant to date. Here are the waffle fries with Maytag blue cheese, bacon and scallions.

Hickory is Rathbun's most casual restaurant to date. Here are the waffle fries with Maytag blue cheese, bacon and scallions.

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News

Kent Rathbun Concepts operates six restaurants: Abacus in Uptown Dallas; upscale barbecue and taco restaurant Hickory in Plano; and four Jasper's, in Richardson, Plano, The Woodlands and Austin. The company also runs Kent Rathbun Catering. 

We first saw the news on Escape Hatch Dallas.

Bill Hyde Jr. will continue to own Kent Rathbun Concepts, says spokeswoman Ariana Hajibashi. Hyde purchased it in 2007 after Rathbun's partner, arts patron Robert Hoffman, died in 2006, according to a 2013 Dallas Morning News story. Hyde is a former chief executive of Ruth's Chris Steak House.

As of right now, Rathbun's job shift doesn't necessarily mean major changes for the existing six Kent Rathbun Concepts restaurants. Chefs other than Rathbun were involved in the day-to-day cooking at each restaurant; one chef can't be everywhere. It's too early to know, however, if Rathbun will retain his executive chef title with the company.

Rathbun's name lands on a short list of Dallas' best-known fine-dining chefs. He has also competed on Iron Chef America, where he beat TV personality and chef Bobby Flay.

Rathbun founded the company with his name on it in 1999 and calls this change "odd" but not sad. "I'm not leaving behind Kent Rathbun Concepts," he says. "I'm just moving out to do new things."

More to come on what those things are.

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.

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