On the table: Found Kitchen and Lounge
"I've always known there was another restaurant in me," says Amy Morton, the oldest of legendary restaurateur Arnie Morton's five children. Morton cut her teeth in her family's restaurants, was herself the previous owner of two (Mirador and the Blue Room) and was the Director of Operations for Jerry Kleiner's KDK Restaurants. A few years ago, a chef friend approached her to do a restaurant together, and though they decided not to pursue it, "the process just started a fire," Morton says. "I have three amazing girls and an awesome husband, but I also knew that I needed to create again." In a phone conversation, Morton gave TOC the essentials on her forthcoming creation.
1. Found Kitchen and Lounge is the working name. "A very dear friend of mine whose name is Gordon Sinclair said to me, 'You know, I didn't name Gordon until three weeks before we opened.' So, it could change," Morton warns. What won't change is the philosophy behind the name: "Every single thing in the restaurant is going to be 'found': the furniture, the equipment, the plates we eat off of. Everything will be recycled, reused, redesigned. And not only because I think it's cooler—to me it just feels more alive—[but also because] I just feel in this day and age...we're just consuming, consuming, consuming. And restaurants—from what it takes to build them, to the waste that they produce—I just feel like it's my responsibility to be conscious of that."
2. The restaurant will incorporate a social mission. Inspired by Jamie Oliver, Morton plans to work with organizations like Inspiration Café and the Greater Chicago Food Depository to hire much of the back of the house from marginalized populations, such as the homeless. "The hiring practice is hugely important to me," Morton says, and she also plans to donate a portion of the restaurant's proceeds to existing charities.
3. The food will be affordable Mediterannean in the vein of Avec/the Bristol/Purple Pig. "The food is all shared plates," explains Morton, with ingredients sourced locally from "people with thoughtful, sustainable practices....Everything's under $20. Hearty, in terms of the flavor; light in terms of the ingredients. It's italian-inspired, Mediterannean, from Southern France into Italy, maybe a little bit Moroccan or Spanish....Most important: nothing constructed, nothing deconstructed. To me, this is about getting back to the basics. It's rustic, it's hearty, you see the flavors, there's not sixty ingreidents on each plate. It's simple, and it's delicious." Morton and her partner are working with a currently undisclosed chef.
4. Morton hasn't yet finalized a lease, but she's positive the restaurant will be in Andersonville, be under 100 seats and have a garden. TOC'll keep you posted.