Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving - What Eight Chicago Restos Are Serving Up and a Q&A with Their Exec Chefs

THANKSGIVING: Chicago Chefs Design 
Sumptous Model American Fare 

Though it's often associated with rustic, comfort food, Thanksgiving has caught the attention of some of Chicago's most talented chefs who are using their creativity to turn this annual holiday into the ultimate gourmand's Utopia.

Whether you prefer a prix fixe menu or a full-scale buffet with a selection of irresistible options, here are eight restaurants that are sure to make you feel like celebrating - outstanding cuisine! Luxe File caught up with a few of our favorite Chicago chefs to find out which Thanksgiving dishes they like, and loathe, and what they are most grateful for this year.

State and Lake at theWit Chicago
Meal Highlights: Maple Brined Oven Roasted Turkey with traditional accompaniments 
Cost: $30 per person
Call 312-239-9400 for reservations.

Evan Percoco
Executive Chef

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: I will spend the morning with my family at theWit, serving breakfast to our guests and friends. In the afternoon, I will cook alongside my beautiful wife, Lori, preparing a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for us and our baby, Stella, who is quite an adventurous eater!

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: I prefer to involve the whole family and cook together. That way, everyone can take pride and appreciation in the beautiful meal we’ve created together.

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: Stuffing

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: Rutabaga

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: I grew up on the east coast and my favorite memories are the ones with a hoard of relatives including grandparents and cousins running around and getting into mischief. During these years, Thanksgiving meant a lot of visiting, laughter, hugs, and a cornucopia of food. When I look back at it, these were times that celebrate food bringing everyone together, I guess I was inspired in my career path by many family memories like this.

What I am most thankful for: My baby daughter, Stella, who surprises me every day. She wants to try everything Mommy and Daddy are eating and often bursts into a fit of giggles, which makes me melt. 

Meal highlights: Surf & Turf with Wagyu Sashimi, Horseradish Crema, Tempura Shrimp & Herb Salad; Country Pork Chop with Spiced Brown Sugar & Honey Glaze; and Sour Cream Apple Cheesecake with Roasted Apples, Graham Crackers & Cinnamon Caramel
Cost: $45 per person, $15 per child (ages 6–12), or free (ages 5 and younger)
Call 312-660-6000 for reservations.

Rick Gresh
Executive Chef 

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: Prepping all week for our Thanksgiving Day celebration at David Burke’s Primehouse!

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: One way or another I always end up in the kitchen. It’s the life of a chef!

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: Pumpkin pie (no crust) with lots of whipped cream.

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: Pecan pie. God awful way too sweet for me.

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: Being a kid, over at my grandmother’s house getting busted for eating her homemade pickled beets. How much trouble can a kid get into for eating his vegetables after all? Those beets were so delicious!

What I am most thankful for: Having a great family and friends while being able to live the great chef lifestyle. 

Meal highlights: Roasted Turkey; Glazed Brussel Sprouts; Butternut Squash Puree; and Ciabatta Stuffing
Cost: $28 per person
Call 312-660-8866 for reservations.

Todd Stein
Executive Chef

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: I will be with my wife's family.  It is usually about twenty or more people and I am, of course, the official turkey carver. There’s a ton of food, some traditional and some not, with lots of good cocktails and wine, as well.

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: Either. I do not mind cooking, but enjoy when I do not have to.

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: The stuffing is always my favorite. It’s only at this time of the year that I ever eat it, so I appreciate it a lot.

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: Sweet potatoes. They do nothing for me.

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: Spending Thanksgiving with my wife’s (my then-girlfriend) family was something new for me. After spending so many years with my own family, it was exciting to see how someone else celebrated. It was, shockingly!, more food, wine, and people than we’d ever had.  There was also lots of laughter and great stories about my girlfriend. I felt truly at home. Everyone was surprised by how little I ate. It’s kind of funny to me but on Thanksgiving, I tend not to eat a lot.

What I am most thankful for: That I am still able to be with friends and family every year for the holidays.

Meal highlights: Shrimp & Crab Bisque; Oven Roasted Turkey; Two-Bite Baby Back Ribs; Maple-Glazed Salmon; Brown Sugar-Glazed Sweet Potatoes; Pumpkin Chiffon Pie; and Upside Down Pear Cake
Cost: $40 per person; $16 per child (ages 12 and under)
Call 312-335-3745 for reservations.

Larry Donahue
Executive Chef

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: I will be starting my day at Mity Nice, where we will be preparing a great buffet for 500+ people. Then, I will be heading home to watch football and enjoy all of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: I love to cook Thanksgiving food! I like recreating all of my childhood favorites.

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: I think Thanksgiving has the best holiday food. I love all of the side dishes - one of my favorites is stuffed mushroom caps.

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: It would have to be giblet gravy.

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: When I was growing up, my family always hosted a huge Thanksgiving dinner, often for over 40 people. My mother would start prepping a week in advance. Those dinners are some of my earliest memories of myself cooking.

What I am most thankful for: I'm happy to be sharing Thanksgiving traditions with my family.

Meal highlights: Wild Mushroom Salad with Honey Glazed Duck; Pumpkin Risotto with Duck Confit; Roasted Turkey Breast with Potato Puree & Sage Cornbread Stuffing; Maple Panna Cotta; and Chocolate Caramel Lollipops
Cost: $115 per person; $35 per child (ages 5–12)
Call 312-239-4030 for reservations.

Ryan LaRoche
Executive Chef

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: I will be happily celebrating Thanksgiving with my two families – the first being my family at Park Hyatt; and the second being with my wife and family in Oakbrook, IL for a homemade Thanksgiving dinner. I am cooking my famous deep fried turkey.

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: Surprisingly, cooked for.

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: Stuffing

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: Ambrosia

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: The first time I met my wife’s massive Filipino family on Thanksgiving. I walked into a small concert of Tagalog karaoke. 

What I am most thankful for: A wonderful, supporting family because I usually do not make Thanksgiving.

Meal highlights: Portabello Capaccio with Forbidden Black Rice, Truffle Vinaigrette and Mizun; Roast Suckling Pig with Fennel Slaw, Mango BBQ Sauce and Butter Biscuits; All Natural Braised Amish Turkey Legs and Thighs with Sage and Marjoram Stuffing, Maple and Spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes and Homemade Marshmallow Crust; Apple Caramel Cheesecake; and Sweet Potato Flan with Meringue and Candied Walnut
Cost: $130 per person; $55 per child (ages 5-12)
Call 312-280-8800 for reservations.

Kevin Hickey
Executive Chef

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: I will be serving over 700 guests a spectacular Thanksgiving feast until the early evening, at which point I will go home to my wife to cook a feast for 20 family members.

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: Cooked for!

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: Tied - Pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream AND with my grandmother's bacon stuffing and gravy.

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: Turkey!

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: Cooking for my family in my first apartment in San Francisco.

What I am most thankful for: Health and my family.

Meal highlights: Braised Short Rib Gyoza with Kabocha Puree, Red Shiso Leaf & Smoked Ginger Soy; Mojo Roasted Organic Turkey with Linguica Quinoa Stuffing & Crispy Brussel Sprouts; and Brazil Nut Apple Pie with Fuji Apples, Brazil Nut Crumble, Apple Cider Caramel & Wild Turkey Crema
Cost: Menu items are priced a la carte
Call 312-595-2300 for reservations.

Fernando Navas
Corporate Executive Chef

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: I usually like to have thanksgiving at the restaurant with the staff that could not make it home.

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: I prefer to cook for the staff.

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: Mushrooms and green beans cassoulet

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: Sweet potatoes with marshmallow

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: Every Thanksgiving has something special to remember.

What I am most thankful for: I am thankful for my friends and family and having good health and happiness.

Meal highlights: Turkey Roulade with Sweet Sausage Stuffing and Turkey Veloute; Roasted Turkey with House Made Cranberry Sauce; Bourbon Glazed Ham; Sausage Stuffing; Sweet Potato Soufflé; and Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Cost: $49 per person; desserts priced a la carte
Call 312-266-6691 for reservations.

Patrick Quakenbush
Executive Chef

How I will be celebrating Thanksgiving this year: I will be here working. The life of a chef is not an easy one. We cater to those with a more traditional job and are one of the few restaurants open on Thanksgiving in the city.

On Thanksgiving, I prefer to cook OR be cooked for: Since I do most of the heavy lifting everyday, I tend to let others do the cooking and I will assist if needed.

Favorite Thanksgiving dish: Turkey Roulade. That is why we run it here.

Least favorite Thanksgiving dish: Cranberries out of the can

Happiest Thanksgiving memory: When I actually get to spend it with my family instead of at work.

What I am most thankful for: Having a good job and a wonderful family. 

*All pricing excludes tax & gratuity.

Posted by Kerry Shorr