Oui Chef

Posted: November 27, 2013 in Food, Lifestyle, Personal, Uncategorized

I remember working as a young cook in Chicago. I really didn’t know much and  just wanted to learn more about food. And I knew I wanted to work for the best.
 
Everyone talked about this one restaurant. (Mostly the older chefs) a French restaurant in a suburbs, with a French Chef named Banchet

They talked about how that restaurant changed the way Chicago thought about dining and food. I made it my goal to work under him at  Le Francais….but
they told me I couldn’t. Because Banchet no longer had the restaurant and was retired, my hopes and dreams were crushed. 

But then one day in 1999 the news broke that Chef Jean Banchet was coming back to Chicago to take over Le Francais again. This was my chance. A once in a life time opportunity to work for a chef with such linage that ties to Chefs like Fernand Point and Paul Bocuse. 

A friend help me set up an interview with Banchet. I put on my best JC penny suit and told my mom I was going on an interview in Wheeling, and also asked her where wheeling was. 

And next thing I knew… a legend was sitting across from me telling me all about the restaurant .

He said; “I like you Reon”. ( His broken English on how to pronounce Ryan)
“If you want the job it’s yours. It pays 6.25 and you will work 6 days a week, and I want you to stay for more then a year.”  

I said “Yes!!” before he could even finish. I was now a cook for Jean Banchet at Le Francais.

I still to this day remember the smells of walking into the kitchen, the flavors of the sauces we used to make. The roasting of meats and the classic presentations, letting the flavor of the food speak for itself.

He was a master of French food and this was like my bachelor degree in Classic French cooking. The things I learned in that kitchen behind those walls would shape me to be the cook I am today.  I could not have worked at the French Laundry with out going through the gauntlet of Jean Banchet first. He whipped me into shape, taught me the classics, and showed us all what it takes to be a great cook.

I remember later in life after I left when I was traveling, I would call him just to chat and ask advice. He was always happy to talk. Even though our conversations were short, he always said a lot to make me think.

When I opened Butter, my first chef job, he randomly stopped in one day to check the place out ( that’s what he said)…but I knew was there to make sure I was ok. 

He told me he was so proud of the cook I had become. I will never forget that day. He walked in the dining room with a smile ear to ear and just said; “Hello Reon”.

I only hope I learned enough from him, I wish I could have asked more questions during our time together, but one thing I will never forget is how he put me on the proper road to become successful by teaching us how to cook things the right way.

You will be missed Chef, but what you left behind is enough for 100 lifetimes.

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My Next Steps

Posted: October 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

I remember my first day in a kitchen, there was so much work to do and the day flew by. And at that moment I knew that I wanted to be a cook.

 I can still remember walking into The French Laundry in the mornings and inhaling the smell of veal stock, tasting sauces with Jean Banchet, and making ice cream with the pastry team at Can Roca.

 These memories make up what it means to me to be a cook, and at the end of the day that’s what I aspire to be…just a solid cook that will help other young chefs make memories on their journeys.

 It’s true that life can pass you by and you can get lost in the shuffle if you don’t stop and enjoy it once in a while.

 Thats where i feel like now, like I’m getting lost. Lost in this race of who can have the most restaurants, or how many can we open in one year.

 What’s wrong with just having one restaurant and making it great?! Facebook and twitter clouds my memories of why I became a cook in the first place which was to learn and provide joy thru food.

 

 Now it’s time to work on getting back to that place and I’ll do that by spending time with a group of my peers whom inspire me.

 So I’m hitting the road, traveling and staging in innovative kitchens across the country and world.  

 

I have never been more prepared in my life and I am ready for journey and when I come back to Chicago I hope to inspire my favorite city with all I’ve learned.

 

After three years of attending the Aspen Food and Wine Fest, I’ve learned to love the fact that you never know who you may bump into.

It almost feels like summer camp, but instead of team sports- we compete with how much pork we can consume at one sitting. (This actually happened between Me Jason Vincent and  Michael Votaggio). My tight jeans are telling me I won.)

This year was a little different. My guy Jason Vincent was named 2013’s Best New Chef and I could not have been happier for the fellow phish fan.

Jason knew I would be at the event, so he asked me if I would help with his tasting on Saturday morning. No brainer. So I joined Danny Grant (best new chef last year) , and Jason Hammel ( LuLa Café)  and it felt more like a party than work.

Food and Wine friends Dana Cowin and Kate Krader stopped by to say hello and Kate marveled at the fact that Chicago was so well represented and that we’d help out our friend at his table.

Team Chicago w/Dana

Team Chicago w/Dana

After the Grand Tasting I high tailed it over to the Jerome hotel to start prepping for my event with Jamie Bissonnette from Toro Restaurant in Boston. The two of us were working a pop-up tapas bar at the Jet Set store hosted by Brady from Cochon 555.

 The turnout was amazing and it would have been a perfect event- except for the fact that the Hawks lost to the Bruins and Jamie wouldn’t let me forget about it.

Sunday kicked off with judging the Cochon 555 event. I got to hang with Jason again and Andrew Zimmern was chatting with us while we all tasted 30 different pork dishes from some of the best Chefs in the country. Yes 30- I disgust even myself sometimes.

The competition was solid and my friend Cosmos from Publican Quality Meats and Missy Robbins were stand-outs for me. (Missy I need that recipe for those meatballs!)

Missy's Dish

Missy’s Dish

Cosmo's dishes

Cosmo’s dishes

 But it was Adam Sobel from Rn74 in San Fran who was crowned The Prince of Pork, and it was a well-deserved win.
adam's dish

adam’s dish

After three days of non stop eating, laughing and having feeling like an old man due to the crazy altitude…I couldn’t wait to come back to Chicago. Cheers Aspen, until next year.

There is a lot of talk right and hot air being blown around Washington about people’s liberty, woman’s rights , guns and marriage.

You can have your opinion and are free to express what you think and believe- after all it’s a free country. BUT SO CAN I!! Muahaha.

But I wanted to show my support for my gay friends more than just by changing my Facebook profile pic to the red and pink equality sign…and we decided brunch was the perfect way to do it.

So I called up some gay friends, and set a date for brunch. Luckily,DJ Megan Taylor agreed to spin brunch tunes and Bacon & H.A.M. brunch at Tavernita was born.

Along with the Hosts & Tavernita Mangers , we came up with the menu and the vibe we wanted to create- which was a fun, and relaxed party with good brunch food.

But we weren’t expecting the turn out to be so incredible. It was INSANE. The place was packed and rockin. Since Nicole from Yacht Club Vodka was the sponsor, Kelli & her passed out sailor hats and everyone they invited and were hopping from table to table saying hello to everyone .

We’re going to do one of these once a month- our goal is to just create a fun and laid back big gay brunch party that anyone feels comfortable attending.

 

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Django Django

Posted: March 21, 2013 in Lifestyle, Music, Personal, Uncategorized

I think everyone knows that I’m super into music. If I wasn’t a chef, I think I would have been a roadie or bass player or maybe just a groupie somewhere.

So when my friend Graham, who is also into the music scene asked me to check out a new band Django Django with him, I jumped at the chance.

They were playing at one of my favorite places to see a show in Chicago- The Metro and thanks to Graham… we had seats on the balcony next to the stage

They took the stage and after the first song I was hooked.  The band describes their music as; ” Neo-psychedelic, Electronic and Art Rock”-  and in Poli speak- I’d say it’s full of awesome funky dance beats. They sound very similar to Beta Band and Graham said the drummer’s brother founded Beta Band. So looks like he took some tips from his older sibling.

Default, Hail Bop and Waveforms were my favorite songs.  The band all plays different instruments and I think that lends to the unique sound.

Keep your eye in these guys… I think they will be huge really soon. I’m already applying to be a groupie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQGTORbJgB4ImageImage

Chef Language 101

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Every kitchen has its own tone, and every chef has their own language to communicate with their staff.
here are some funny quotes I’ve picked up over the years, and a decoder to help translate what we actually mean

Oui = Yes chef.

 

Heard = Understood.

 

What’s your day look like? = I have extra work for you to do.

 

Be there in 5 min = More like 45 min.

 

On my way, you need anything? =I just woke up. Sorry I’m late, I will

buy Starbucks.

 

Plating beef dish now= It’s still on the grill cooking.

 

Your pay increase will be in your next check = I forgot to tell the accountant we gave you a raise.

 

We’re in the shits= Things are almost out of control.

 

Lobsters were not available today because of bad weather on the east coast = I forgot to order lobsters last night

 

That’s fine = Get out of my face with that bull shit mis en place.

 

That’s fine = Go do it again it’s wrong.

 

That’s fine = I will do it myself the right way.

 

That’s fine = Sometimes it means just that…fine.

 

Lets push guys  = Better start moving or I’m going to lose it

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Year One & More…..

Posted: March 5, 2013 in Events, Food, Personal

Somethings never change…I’m always a little bit late.

But I couldn’t let Tavernita’s One Year Anniversary go by without a toast.

So cheers to an amazing staff- may sound cliche, but without Tavernita’s Executive Chef Greg Bastien, I’m not sure what I would have done.

Greg carrying the weight

Greg & I goofing around at Jean Banchet event.


A little over a year ago I remember becoming comfortable knowing that I’d have no life while opening this new restaurant. I remember panicking at every detail, every friend who came in to try the food- I wondered if they would like it. I spent countless sleepless nights wondering what the reviews would say. And thru the entire journey and all the growing pains, Greg quietly worked beside me, gaining the respect of the kitchen and wait staff. Before I thought I was ready, I left to open Little Market and let Greg run the kitchen and he proved what an asset he was again.

Equally as important are Alfredo, Paul and Tad, Natalie,Scott, Juan, Natasha, Katrina and Ivan. This team is really like family- we beat each other up, but always offer support.

Amigos de Pinxto, the Lounge launch, funny videos and tweets from @Pinxto the Dog and the wait staff kept me laughing thru all the times when I wanted to throw something and swear. Thanks to Erin, Rachel, Matthew, Christy, Chris, Linzi, Joe,& Steph, if they were not as good as they are I might have gone off the deep end.

So many familiar faces came out Saturday to wish me well, and I hope that you guys know that your support means everything. So keep coming back and to the new places please!!

Speaking of those…The Mercadito Hospitality crew has a lot going on and I’m looking forward to more stress and less sleep.
Thank you all and Eat a Pinxto!

Tavernita Kitchen Staff

Tavernita Kitchen Staff

Tuesday night I needed a hug.

I had just gotten done doing a Bikram Yoga class and was calm for the first time all week. Then I checked my phone and read a text : “You read the Time Out review?”.

F*&K.

I’d been stressed about this review, like I am for all of them. It doesn’t matter how many tweets, handshakes, compliments, and good reviews we get (all though we love them- ha!)…one bad review can put me in a dark place for weeks.

I bit the bullet and read Julia Kramer’s review , my panic increasing by the moment. I respect Julia as a food critic, and winced at some of the comparisons.

But as my eyes found the final paragraph, I cheered up a bit. A bit. The Big Baby , is my favorite thing on the menu and I’m glad she was also a fan.

It’s a dish that reminds me of where I came from, and I have that goal with all of my food- to remain authentic, while finding new ways to become a better chef.

So I chose to focus on the positive and had some fun with it and tweeted this at Julia.
Thank god she got the joke and played along. Not bad for a hotel Chef, right?

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Amigos 2.0

Posted: February 4, 2013 in Drinks, Events, Food

Last Monday “Amigos de Pinxto” with Sean Brock really embodied what the whole event is all about; getting cool peeps together to hang out, enjoy cocktails and bites of food with friends.

 

Our guest chef did not let us down- the guy showed up with a 2 year aged Ossabaw country ham for Christ sakes!!!

He also brought; BBQ pork ribs from his restaurant Husk and fried pickled green tomatoes.

 

Not only was the food great but the conversation was non-stop laughs the whole night- everyone was pumped to have Sean there and to taste his food.

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I met Sean a few times with Mike Sheerin from Trencherman and we all totally hit it off in a “bromantic” sort of way. I really respected his cooking and his approach to food and I asked if he’d be open to coming up and doing an Amigos with us. He said yes, but I figured it was the liquor talking…but sure enough- he came thru and hosted what turned out to be a standing room only night.

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Having a guy like Sean in, has created the kind of buzz we need to bring more and more talented chefs from around the country together to introduce their food to Chicago.

Stay tuned…

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Who’s A Big Baby

Posted: January 11, 2013 in Food, Lifestyle, Personal

I want to tell you about the Big Baby. No, not some sniveling adult who always tries to get his or her way, or Glen Davis a basketball player on the Celtics, but a burger. A double cheese burger to be exact. 

Where I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, there are many hot dog stands named Nicky’s. No one knows who had the first Nicky’s or who served the first big baby, but the burger is somewhat of a Southside icon. 

Two thin patties of flat top griddle-cooked beef, ketchup, mustard, American cheese between each patty, caramelized onions, pickles, on a toasted sesame seed bun.

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 Photo: Big Baby At Little Market Brasserie

It’s a work of art to see the guys behind the counter make a big baby. They are masters of their trade being precise with every layer. 

I couldn’t tell you when the first big baby I ate was or at what Nicky’s location I was at. At the time I guess I had no idea this burger was only served on the Southside. It’s just something I grew up eating.

 After school my friends and I would walk over to Nicky’s for a snack. For a while there was a Little Nicky’s location that served the Triple Baby.

Working on the menu at Little Market I thought a lot about what makes a great neighborhood restaurant. Price, comfort, and familiarity all were factors. But when it came time to create a burger, it was the Big Baby from my childhood that made its way to the menu.

I tried to keep true to the original, but we use a brioche bun, spicy mayo and Dijon mustard, but everything else is the same.  I even kept the American cheese.

My friends David and Catherine also are fans of the Big Bay, check out the info they have been gathering from Rene G on LTH

I think it’s time to turn the rest of Chicago on to a well-kept Southside  secret. THE BIG BABY!