A brief introduction to the Shawn McClain story
In that time, I interviewed McClain, his partners and others in the industry, and I also had dinner (anonymously) at Spring (McClain's nine-year-old Wicker Park restaurant) and drinks and appetizers (un-anonymously) at Sage (McClain's nine-month-old Las Vegas restaurant). (The Vegas trip was a bit incidental—I was headed to Los Angeles on a road trip in mid-August and stopped by to check out Sage and talk more with Shawn.)
When I first set up an interview with the chef at Buzz Killer Espresso in July, I was doubtful I would end up writing anything about it. But there was something about McClain's honesty and seriousness that made me want to know more about his life—and that led me to hope that readers might share that interest, too. Even while commuting between two cities and keeping tabs on three restaurants (not to mention dealing with everything that the article is about), McClain replied to my emails and phone calls and in-person questions—no matter how banal, and no matter how much he probably would have preferred if I didn't write this story at all—with a graciousness and thoughtfulness that is rare (and not just for a chef, although that qualifier is certainly true). Sometimes I feared that McClain's and his partners' (Peter Drohomyrecky and Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky, whose names I can now type without spell-checking) restraint and self-editing when talking to me would result in a lack of story; ultimately, it didn't, and I'm now able to admire their ability to keep some things—likely very difficult things—private.
One last footnote that didn't make its way into the story: Pork-belly steamed buns and scallion-crab pancakes at Spring. Stop into the bar and order these and a glass of wine before it's too late.