Details have just been released about Eggy's, the diner Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky and Peter Drohomyrecky of Custom House Tavern are opening in Lakeshore East (right across the street from Millennium Park). Let's dive in:
- Running the place (as both general manager and chef) will be Zach Millican, who has been serving as the chef de cuisine at Custom House Tavern. (Previous assumptions were that Perry Hendrix, the chef at CHT, would be the chef.)
- Erin Mooney, CHT's pastry chef, will handle the desserts.
- It's BYOB.
- It will serve breakfast and lunch (see menu items below) all day. For dinner, the restaurant will feature a three-course tasting menu, served family-style; this dinner menu will change daily.
- Prices will be on the lowish side—$3-$12 for breakfast, $8-$13 for lunch, $18-$24 for dinner.
- Mooney's dessert will consist of old-school items like ice cream sundaes, milk shakes, ice cream floats, N.Y. Egg Creams, double chocolate fudge cake, southern-style coconut cake, banana cream pie and sour cream Dutch apple pie.
- The savory menu will follow suit, with the following a sample of the breakfast items...
Green Eggs & Ham
Two baked eggs, Anson Mills grits, tomatillo sauce, house made Tasso ham, avocado, pickled onion and queso fresco.
Peter & the Wolf
Potato, fennel, carrot and pastrami hash with two fried eggs. Topped with horseradish cream, and served with toast.
Slow roasted pork, roasted poblano pepper, black beans, queso fresco and smothered with ranchero sauce.
The Verb Omelet
Egg whites, avocado, Swiss cheese, spinach and jalapeno and served with house made salsa on the side.
Served with seasonal fruit; add fried chicken or maple glazed pork belly.
Melissa's Candy Pancakes
Named after partner David Carlins's daughter's creation, these pancakes are made with M&Ms, Butterfinger and Snickers.
-...and the following being some examples of lunch...
Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds
With dill pickle sauce.
Crispy fries, two fried eggs, bacon, covered in hollandaise and browned.
Chicken and Dumpling Soup
Kale & Quinoa Salad
Red wine vinaigrette, toasted walnuts, apple, and agro dolce onions.
Crispy white fish, cabbage and onion slaw, house tartar sauce.
Frank and Beans
House made baked beans, all natural all beef hot dog, yellow mustard, pickle, and bacon.
Hot Chili Beef Dip
Our version of the cheese steak. Steak, onions and spicy cheese sauce.
Curry Chicken Salad
Red Curry chicken salad on your choice of bread with lettuce tomato and onion.
Eggy's is expected to open in April at 333 E. Benton Place, Suite 103. It's got a Twitter presence already: @eggyschi
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United launch campaign to improve jobs in restaurant industry | Photos
On Tuesday morning, Saru Jayaraman, the co-director and founder of ROC, announced the launch of the national "Dignity at Darden" campaign. This campaign is aimed at alleged discrimination and wage theft by Darden Restaurants, owner of notable chains like Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and their high-end restaurant brand, Capital Grille. The allegations accuse Capital Grilles in four major US cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
The charges first caught the attention of ROC when almost all of the black workers at the Chevy Chase (D.C. area) location of Capital Grille were fired for not "meeting Capital Grille's standards" and replaced by white workers. Looking deeper into the company's practices, ROC found "the CEO is making $8.5 million and the workers are making $2.13 an hour," said Jayaraman. "We will not put up with that."
Carlos Marban described his time as a dishwasher for Capital Grille in Chicago to the crowd of 60 or so people. "My experience there was not a pleasant one," said Marban. "I wanted to work my way up to become a waiter but there wasn't any room for improvement for a dishwasher. "
While Marban was able to leave after realizing there was no upward mobility, Alfredo Galdamez is not as lucky. Using a translator, Galdamez spoke to the crowd as a current employee at Capital Grille. "In my country, I used to be the person who ate at the Capital Grilles. In this country I am on the other side," said Galdamez. He detailed how Capital Grille reacted with indifference when he hurt his foot. "We are not allowed to bleed," he said. "We are not allowed to be hurt."
It was around this point in the panel that someone found a microphone the speakers could use. The voices and message became stronger.
"Ten years ago, we started asking where our food comes from. Now it's time to start asking, how are we treating the people who bring it to us?" asked Megan Larmer, co-president of Slow Food Chicago. "Sometimes these workers are treated worse than that pork chop that is on your plate."
Not all restaurants succumb to these pitfalls. Exceptions like Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique and Houlihan's (both catered the event) are favorably marked in the ROC national Diners' Guide, which asked restaurants about their practices regarding paid sick leave, wages for tipped and non-tipped workers and opportunities for mobility. It also provides tip cards that patrons can give to workers and managers at restaurants to ensure they know their rights.
Teresa Ging, owner of Sugar Bliss, began her career in finance and quickly learned that treating employees right was a vital part of financial success, turning the common wisdom of the food industry on its head. "I don't just look at them as employees," said Ging. "I look at them as family." When asked about the Diners' guide, Ging responded, "I feel honored to be a part of it. It's important that people patronize places that treat their employees well."
By the Q&A portion of the event, the volume on the mic had kicked into full gear and the voices of the panelists filled the room. For Marban, this event provided hope that things would get better. "I'm glad there is much support and there can be help. Things can change."
After countless test batches of sourdough rolls, endless tastings of pumpkin spice bread and innumerable pinches of yeast, Baker & Nosh finally opened their doors at 7am this morning.
"It has been crazy!" said owner Bill Millholland. "But in a good way." With a line out the door of people waiting for fresh pastries and La Colombe coffee, the success topped anything the new bakery had hoped for. Millholland and co. managed to reach their goal for the day by 10am and were almost sold out of everything by 3pm.
Baker & Nosh traffics in housemade breads, coffee cakes sold by the slice, muffins, brioche, croissants and (and this is where the "nosh" part comes in) artisanal cheeses. Flatbreads, sandwiches and baking/cooking classes are also all part of the plan. However, B&N will wait a week or so to release a set menu, using customer comments to see what is working. (This give and take with customers is nothing new—the bakery has utilized social media since its origins. Their food and drink offerings, business hours and even cup sizes have been crafted around feedback from their Facebook and Twitter pages.)
Other future plans include a free herb garden for customers and outdoor seating areas for spring and summer. But for now, Baker & Nosh seems content to feed the crowds and hopefully make them happy.
"Everyone assumes we're a bunch of meatheads."
This is what Chris Dexter told me yesterday as he and Jared Van Camp showed me around the almost-finished (kind-of-almost-finished?) spaces that will shortly open as Nellcôte (833 W Randolph St) and RM. I did not disagree with Mr. Dexter, not because I think he's a meathead (it was the first time I'd met the guy), but because, as I wrote about in this article last year, Element Collective (Dexter, Van Camp and Chris Freeman, the guys behind Nellcôte, RM and Old Town Social) is well-known to struggle with its identity. The food product at OTS competes with the best restaurants in the city; the crowd competes with McGee's. Not that this is not the worst struggle to have—Old Town Social regularly has lines out the door on the weekends.
Okay, I’ve been waiting for this moment through nine seasons of Top Chef: A chef renders Tom Colicchio speechless, and it’s as sweet as I ever could’ve imagined. Not in the oh-my-God-what-a-great-dish sense of speechless. Rather, in the I’m-Tom-Colicchio-and-I-just-got-told-off-and-I-have-no-comeback sense of the word. How satisfying it is.
This week's issue is particularly packed with food and drink coverage: We've got a pretty positive review of Goosefoot, a scathing review of BLT and some tasting notes on the breakfasty dinner menu at the new Jam. Heather Shouse digs into the new location of Chicago's only Eritrean restaurant, while I explore the trend of putting cocktails on tap. We've even got some spots to watch the Super Bowl, which is personally my favorite baseball game of the year.
But let's put all that aside for a moment and talk about brunch. I'll start with a short story.
A few weeks back one sixtyblue anncounced its closure. A few days later, Eater reported that chef Michael McDonald would not be part of whatever was to replace it. This morning, worlds collided as the press release announced: MICHAEL JORDAN AND CORNERSTONE RESTAURANT GROUP JOIN FORCES WITH CHEF BILL KIM TO INTRODUCE BELLY Q, AN ASIAN BARBECUE CONCEPT.
The connection between Kim (the formerchef de cuisine who set the trend of chefs going downscale when he left Le Lan to open and subsequently ) and Cornerstone (which operates, among other restaurants, and ) stemmed, per the press release, from "a chance conversation." Here's what else we know: (1) Belly Q will go into the former one sixtyblue space at 1400 W Randolph. (2) The projected opening date is this spring. (3) The buildout of the restaurant will feature "materials chosen for their overlooked beauty." And as for the food, (4) "Expect a flavor palette that's boldly smoky and brightly piquant, with a depth of flavor that sneaks up on you and leaves you wanting more." As though we would expect anything less from Bill Kim.
Every so often my colleagues and I will get a new food product in the mail, and then promptly subject the rest of the office to said product. Such was the case today when I decided to brew two new roasts of coffee from Caribou Coffee. You may recall that Starbucks started, a light(er) roast, last week; Caribou's timing in releasing their own light roast, Starlight, and a new ultra-dark roast, Eclipse, does not seem coincidental.
It's not entirely fair to compare my Starbucks and Caribou experiences, since the former was sampled at a Starbucks cafe, while the latter was made in our office coffee machine. Still, I feel safe in saying that Caribou's light roast tastes far more light than anything Starbucks puts out (or ever would). Here's a comment from one of my co-workers that just popped up in my inbox:
"I just tried what was in the pot right now, and I assume it is the light roast, because it didn't have a very bold flavor. I put a tiny bit of sugar in mine and it already seems to be overpowering the taste of coffee."
Actually, the coffee that co-worker drank was Eclipse, the dark roast, made with strict adherence to the package's suggestion of one big spoonful of grounds per ounce of water. I agree with this taster that the Eclipse, though it sports some decent body, is pretty weak with flavor. It's also kind of oily, in an unpleasant way. As you can imagine, the Starlight is even weaker than the Eclipse, though in that instance it's more forgivable—it's more in keeping with expectations for a light roast.
The general concensus: Neither Eclipse nor Starlight is bold enough to entice us into Caribou. But then, personally, Blonde isn't going to get me into Starbucks more often, either. If I want a light roast of coffee (which seems to be the thing right now), I'll go withinstead.
Back in September, I had the chance to sit down with two of the city's biggest beer geeks, Tony Russomanno and Noah Hopkins of the the story behind Dampf Loc, , to learn a modern interpretation of a medieval peasant beer from southeast Bavaria, which they brewed out of Dog Brewery in Westminster, Maryland. Dampf Loc is now just one beer in the Local Option's quickly expanding line; two new and unusual beers created by Russomanno and Hopkins are arriving next week. The first, Morning Wood, is an oak-aged coffee ale brewed out of Against the Grain Brewery in Louisville, Kentucky, using Blue Bottle single-origin coffee. The second is a "massive hop bomb" (per the press materials) of a double-IPA called American Muscle. Try them both next Friday, January 27, beginning at 3pm, when the bar invites you to Occupy the Local Option—i.e., taste some rare beers, including Cantillon Fou'Founes. Check out the full, insane draft and bottle list.
Most babies take about nine months to arrive. For Eben Dorros and the rest of the e.leaven team, theirs arrived in seven. It’s bright orange, 24x6.5 square feet, has four wheels and smells like coffee and pastries. I snagged a sneak peek of the food truck right before it officially hit the streets.
While food trucks are still roaming the town—albeit in smaller numbers due to restrictive legislation—not many can boast the same range as e.leaven. With breakfast, lunch and dessert offerings made daily, this truck aspires to be a true restaurant on wheels. Although Dorros hopes to eventually include the entire e.leaven menu, most favorites are already on board. I’m not a big chicken salad fan, but the chicken-salad sandwich would make me to chase down the food truck like a crazy person until I could get my fix. And after I voraciously devoured a chocolate croissant, pieces of the flaky crust might have been found in my scarf a few hours later. (I can neither confirm nor deny this rumor.)
Robert Podhajski, the man behind the tweets and the wheel of the food truck, declared his favorite offering to be, “oh, definitely the short rib.” Accolades for the Aji-braised short rib "piewich," a palm-sized puff pastry filled with the slow-cooked beef, were garnered from other members of the tight-knit crew, including both chef Abel Cortes and Dorros. “There is nothing on the menu I don’t love,” added Dorros. “It’s your heart and soul and you want to make sure whatever you’re doing counts.”
Starting a Chicago food truck in the middle of January might not seem like the smartest or warmest idea, but it will give e.leaven a chance to prepare for the craziness of summer. For the first few weeks, the big orange truck will roam with no set schedule or course, but with parking laws as the only restrictions, the truck is free to find its best route Monday–Friday during business hours. “We’re just excited to get it on the street and out to Chicago,” said Dorros.
To find out exactly where the truck is or see the full menu, follow @eleaven on Twitter, check out its Facebook page or website at www.eleavenfood.com.
Balena, the Chris Pandel/Amanda Rockman/Debbi Peek/Phil Waters/John Ross/Kevin Boehm/Rob Katz collaboration in the former Landmark space, which we've been looking forward to for, oh, half a year, is finally gearing up to open mid-February, according to co-owner Boehm. And as part of the opening procedure, chef Chris Pandel is spending a lot of time just zenning out in a moodily lit kitchen making pasta. Not really, but as a follow up to this pasta-making video, the group has produced a second peek at Pandel's noodle-making process, in which he goes step-by-step through the making of tajarin, a noodle from Italy's Piedmont region made only of egg yolks and flour.
The Charlize Theron episode, in which we learn the power of cross-media marketing and curried rice-puff cereal. Let’s do this:
With seven chefs remaining, the 11th episode of Top Chef: Texas begins at the end of the tumultuous 10th episode, “Restaurant Wars.” Once again we see Lindsay and Sarah pissed that their nemesis—tiny Bev, who’s always either smiling or crying—has won the challenge. Bev tells us that Lindsay’s just “sour grapes.” (Control that tongue, Bev.) Lindsay bitches about how hard it all was.
Quickfire Challenge: With Eric Ripert as guest judge, Padma tells the chefs they’ve got 30 minutes to create a sophisticated dish. Oh, no problem then—wait, what? They also have to use three ingredients from a moving conveyor belt where ingredients will suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear as the belt circles back into the wall, like luggage at an airport carousel. I have to say: very nifty little idea—like something you would’ve seen Bob Barker do on The Price Is Right. The ingredients roll on, each one more dispiriting than the last: pop candy, goldfish, cookies, rice-puff cereal…but then, hey, grouper, lobster, clams. Chris, who’s noted that he’s the only chef left who hasn’t yet won a challenge, misses the lobster, which then vanishes from the belt (“those fucking bastards,” he says of the TC crew), then it magically reappears and he dives after it again. Finally, on his third try, he nabs a lobster by its claw. But that doesn’t keep him from ending up on the bottom of the challenge, along with Grayson and Paul.
The mania begins now: A histrionic press release has just been sent to the press, and the headline, in enormous, bold type, says: PUBLICAN QUALITY MEATS SLATED TO OPEN MID-FEBRUARY.
Okay then! This is not a firm date or anything, and restaurants often get held up for months due to health inspections and licensing. But the big, bold type seems to suggest a bit of confidence.
Of course, this is indeed a big deal. Publican Quality Meats is the sister restaurant to, obviously. Situated right across the street from the Publican, PQM will be a butcher shop, a bakery, a sandwich joint, and a place for lunch for 50 people. (The rest of you will have to wait outside, weeping and banging on the big windows through which you will watch everybody enjoying what you can't have.)
Coffee and pastries are part of the plan, ostensibly for breakfast, which chef Paul Kahan (who, like the Publican, owns this spot with Donnie Madia, Terry Alexander and Eduard Seitan) has often mentioned would be a part of the shop. But the hours of the shop, 10am-6pm, don't really lend themselves to breakfast, unless you have such a charmed life that breakfast starts at 10am. Lucky you!
The last time I spoke to chef Kahan he seemed most excited about the grocery element of the store, a place where he will have spices, oils, etc, for sale. I don't have specifics on items, but listen, we don't have to wait that long, okay? PUBLICAN QUALITY MEATS SLATED TO OPEN MID-FEBRUARY.
Getting in was tough but tasty: Skipping the usual guest list and velvet rope, Time Out Chicago’s 100 Best party required attendees to earn a coveted TOC badge on foursquare (by checking in at two 100 Best venues) to gain entrance to
The Bedford Bloody, featured in Time Out Chicago's "100 Best Things We Ate and Drank This Year" issue, was the drink of choice for the schmoozing crowd of mostly twenty-somethings, with other popular libations including the Cucumber Cooler and Bell’s Best Brown Ale. Signature nibbles from Chef Mark Steuer also circulated the antique-bank-vault-turned-kitchen-and-bar. As guests sipped on their cocktails, DJ Jena Nixon brought the party to life.
Be sure to check outfor the rest of TOC's 100 Best list.
Remember RM, the Champagne lounge by the Element Collective (a.k.a. Jared Van Camp) people that hasn't yet opened?
Remember Fritz Pastry, the two-year-old bakery that was just sold to the guys who own The Wormhole?
If you answered yes to both of those questions, you are prepared to hear the news that Nathaniel Meads, the original owner and chef at Fritz, has been named the pastry chef at RM.
No pastry menu has been released yet, but there were some clues in the press release that went out. Van Camp reports being blown away by Meads's souffles and madelines. The release also mentions chocolates and mignardises. So, basically, Meads will be doing classic French pastries, to pair with classic French Champagnes. Despite this, Meads seems to be letting his hair down a little. Ever since we've been covering him he's gone by Nathaniel. But if the press release is any indication, he is now going by Nate.
This week, Starbucks rolled out its new Blonde roasts. Like all blondes, these beans are lighter, brighter, more fun, more frivolous and not as smart. (I'm kidding, blondes! Calm down!) I don't often drink Starbucks Coffee, but I am familiar with the heavy, sharp roast that has become the coffee chain's signature flavor, and I was curious to see if the lighter roast would make Starbucks, well, palatable.
So. This morning, around 10:30am, I entered a Starbucks in Lincoln Park. I saw that two Blonde roasts were being sold on the shelves: Veranda and Willow. I asked the barista if he had both brewed.
"You're in luck," he said. "I just made a French press of the Willow."
(Sidenote: Since when does Starbucks do French press?)
He poured me a cup and I tasted it. And I liked it. It was bright and acidic but balanced and light. I inquired about the Veranda next.
"That was made in the drip machine," the barista told me. By his tone it was clear that he was passing some major judgement on drip machines. Not cool, his tone said. "It's basically the same as the Willow, but it won't taste as good as it would if it were made in the French press."
He poured me a sample and he was right: The Veranda tasted like I know Starbucks to taste—burnt and sharp and sporting a really awful, rusty aftertaste.
I bought a cup of the Willow, obviously. When there wasn't enough to fill a whole cup, the barista asked if I wanted it topped off with the Veranada. I said no, even though what I meant was "hell no." Another barista chimed in and said "It's basically the exact same." She was rolling her eyes when she said it. I still said no. Because while I don't doubt that the Veranda and Willow are very similar (which raises some obvious questions that I won't get into here), that Veranda was brewed in a way that made it taste like evil. Which is the way most Starbucks coffee is made, and which is why rolling out a new light roast won't help matters very much. What's the use of a lighter roast if you're just going to burn the beans in a drip machine?
Oh, Restaurant Wars. We love you, we hate you. Inevitably the most gripping episode of the Top Chef season, inevitably the most gut-wrenching. Padma starts off by telling the eight remaining contestants that some of the best chefs they’ve had on the show have packed their knives after Restaurant Wars. No anxiety there, then. She also announces that, for the first time, this war will be a battle of the sexes: the four women against the four men. (Sorry, but what a lame and retrograde choice, Top Chef.) Each team will have five hours to cook three courses, each course with two choices, for 100 guests, as well as decorate a bare restaurant.
And thus begins the standard Restaurant Wars buildup and breakdown: One team (in this case, the men) is shown to be confident, getting along; the other team (the women) gets the uh-oh music as its members bicker, as things fall apart. Will it be the old Top Chef bait and switch?
Ian Schrager: cofounder of Studio 54, developer of fancypants hotel Public Chicago and its new Pump Room—and unexpectedly, unquestionably, refreshingly shy. At the hotel last night to host a party with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (who created the Pump Room menu), the real-estate mogul found a corner and planted himself there, insisting the night wasn’t about him. Technically he was right: The impetus for the cocktail hour was Vongerichten’s new book, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges. But guests were thrilled to meet both men, and sample hors d’oeuvres crafted by Vongerichten (the lump crab salad on delicate baguette slices blew everything else out of the water), and participate in a super relaxed Q&A, in which Schrager’s voice was barely audible, even with a mic. Regardless of the overwhelming amount of black clothing in the room, it was a colorful affair—the kind of night where your Champagne glass is never empty and everyone’s in a great mood and that cocktail “hour” quickly becomes two, then three. The cookbook also looks great, though I had to laugh at the cover, which describes the recipes as “simple.” We’ll see.
In this week's issue, we take a break from writing about chefs and restaurateurs to focus on a less-hyped, often maligned segment of a restaurant's staff:. It seems that everybody has a bone to pick with a server or two, and these gripes have single-handedly kept Yelp alive. Yet haven't all of us also met front-of-the-house folks who have made our day?
I know I have. Her name is Tangie, and she's a cashier at the. If you've ever been to the food court of the Thomspon Center, you know it's a pretty dismal place. And the people who eat there look pretty dismal as well—everybody's upset and tired and hungry. (Though maybe that's just the lighting.) But Tangie is a ray of sunshine. Jesus, did I really just write that? "A ray of sunshine"? Well, it's true. I knew it the moment I had the pleasure of being served by her. And I really knew it when my friend Pat, not knowing that I had experienced Tangie myself, said to me: "I went to M Burger the other day. There's a woman who works there who is amazing." Duh, Pat!
You can read all about the amazingness that is Tangie—and many other amazing front-of-house folks—. And if you happen to know another ray of light, by all means, give them a shout-out in the comments below.
We have, in permanent residence in the TOC offices, a Next Superfan. Of late, he has been unable to sleep out of fear that season tickets will be released the moment his tired head hits the pillow. He follows the Twitter accounts of not only Next's chef and owner but its manager and sous chef, seeking in their 140-character dispatches some coded information on the contours of the upcoming menu. This morning, he politely disrupted David Tamarkin and my weekly planning meeting to share a vision he had for a short film that can be described in no other way than Grant Achatz fan fiction. For Superfan's sake, we got Grant Achatz on the horn to tell us a little more about what to expect from the El Bulli menu. Here's what he had to say.
1. Next is not capitalizing on El Bulli; It's honoring El Bulli.
"It starts with the actual personal connection between myself and Ferran [Adria] and the fact that Chef Dave [Beran] and I shared a meal in 2007 at El Bulli that was profound. For him and I, it was like a pilgrimage to a restaurant that we had heard so much about, and I think that was my third meal there. I’ve eaten there five times. And it was really exciting for me, being that at that point I’d already eaten there a couple times, to introduce him to this restaurant. And this is 2007, this is way before we even knew that we were going to open Next, but it became a very important moment for him and I as chefs and friends. So when we were thinking about what menus can we do at Next, it was like, all right, at some point, we need to recreate that experience. It hit us as chefs, as cooks, in such a meaningful way that it was just natural do that menu. And I think some people are like, 'They’re just being elitist,' and 'They’re trying to capitalize on the fact that El Bulli closed,' and it’s not about that at all. It’s about my relationship with Ferran, which is really, really, really tight, and [it's about] chefs coming together to be inspired. Like, that’s why we went there in 2007. To be inspired."
2. It's not the dishes that will necessarily blow your mind; it's the progression.
"This restaurant is iconic. Like basically it is the Escoffier of our generation. So what is the best way to honor that restaurant? And if you think about it, Ferran took over in 1987, and they just closed this year. That is a hell of a run. And the amount of dishes and the amount of concepts and techniques and innovation that they implemented during that duration is almost unfathomable. So we were like, we need to show one iconic dish for every year that they were open since Ferran took over in ’87. So that’s how we approached building the menu. It’s a 32-course menu right now, and every year from ’87 onward is represented to try to show, again, this is what it’s all about, it’s about honoring an amazing, ground-breaking, historic restaurant. So we felt like the best way to do that would be to show one course from every year and how they evolved and how they shaped gastronomy. We took the approach where we were like, Let’s show a dish from 1987, and now, here we are in 2012, when you look at that dish, it’s not going to blow your mind. But when you put it in context of what they accomplished and how quickly they evolved—stylistically, technically, everything—then you go, “Wow.” It’s pretty amazing.
3. These dishes are personal. But they're also historical.
"A lot of people never got to go [to El Bulli]. I mean, they served very few people a year. So if we can help show the world or show Americans or show Chicagoans the importance of this restaurant and how it impacted gastronomy, then I think that’s a worthwhile pursuit. And then we went from there, and we were like, okay, we want to involve dishes that resonated with us personally. I staged there in 2000. Coming right out from the French Laundry and going there to stage, there were certain dishes that just blew my mind. Like, blew my mind. So to me, I have a personal connection to those. So we’re going to put those on the menu. And subsequently, all the meals that I had there afterwards, there were certain dishes that I just felt were amazing, and those will be on the menu. And then when chef Dave and I ate there, there were certain dishes that we just sat there and looked at each other and were just like, 'Wow.' So the ones that we felt really were compelling and powerful, those are going to be on the Next menu as well. And then, honoring El Bulli itself, it’s like, there’s certain things that they did in gastronomy that were groundbreaking. So we want to show the world that. We want to show the first hot foam, the first hot gelatin, the first time that they made a foldable gelatin sheet. These techniques to the culinary world are very important, and we want to highlight those. Basically we looked at the menu from two angles: We looked at it from the signifance of our personal opinion—times that I’ve eaten there and staged in the kitchen, times that Chef [Dave Beran] and I have eaten there together—and then what we feel they contributed to the culinary world throughout the duration of 1987 up until 2011.
4. Next is flat-out copying. Which is not the same as copycatting.
"They’re flat-out [recreations of El Bulli dishes]. We’ve been working really closely with Ferran and three of his chef de cuisines. And a lot of the books that they have are incredibly well-documented, but there’s some gaps. So if we have a question on how a dish should come together, we literally just email him, and he’ll send us the recipe. Here’s the thing: It went up on Eater the other day, and people were just ripping us apart. Going like, you know, 'These guys are copycatting.' No. It’s not about copycatting. It’s about honoring. And what they don’t realize is that Ferran and I are actually friends. And we had this idea, and I was like, we need to talk to him about this. And when he was in Chicago and Chris Borrelli did that thing in the Tribune where he interviewed us, I flat-out said to Ferran, if this isn’t going to make you feel comfortable, then we won’t do it, but for me, this is something that’s going to honor you. And he was just like, 'If anybody’s going to do it, you guys should do it.'...A big part of the impetus was to try to honor him, and we’re working so closely with them. They’re going to fly out their chef de cuisine and a couple of their front of the house people to help us make it very, very authentic. It’s really really cool and incredibly generous. I mean, the materials that they’ve sent us so far have been mind-blowing in their attention to detail and precision: recipes and training manuals and everything."
5. Next food will be El Bulli's. But Next is not El Bulli.
"Here is what I’m afraid of: People obviously are going to go, 'I never had the opportunity to go to El Bulli, so I’m gonna go to Next and experience El Bulli.' Well, you know what, that will never happen. That’s impossible. Because part of the romance of El Bulli is driving up the Costa Brava, and having the Mediterranean right there, and the smell of it and the mist, and it’s right in your face. You can’t replicate that in Chicago. What we can do is we can make the food as close to what they would serve at that restaurant, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. The romance of that restaurant is one thing, and the food is another. And I think that we’ll genuinely give people an experience of El Bulli food that’s gonna be pretty spot-on. Chef Dave has already tested four [dishes] at this point—the spherified olives, the liquid tortilla—he’s done a lot already, and they taste exactly like they did when I ate there. So from a food perspective, it’ll be amazing. But, again, like we’re saying, El Bulli was a magical restaurant that Next looks nothing like. The tables are way spread out at El Bulli. You’re perched up on a hill top with the Costa Brava right there and the Mediterranean. It’s a very different thing. We’re not saying that we’re gonna recreate it in general, but I think we’re going to get really close actually.