Laurent Gras

L20 was recently named best restaurant in America by Esquire magazine. I sat down with L20’s chef Laurent Gras recently to see how things are going post-award. In this podcast, Gras talks about why French chefs come to America, his life-threatening bicycle accident, his gadget obsessions, and the technical and creative inspiration behind his cooking. Advertisements


The Prez-Elect has no (culinary) clothes?

Psst, hey chief, carrying Dunkin Donuts is like having a middle name like Hussein. Might we suggest you head to Old Fashioned Donut in Roseland for an apple fritter? I drank the Obama Kool-Aid, but it took a while. I didn’t quite see him as the messiah as quickly as everyone else. I may not be a native Chicagoan, but I’ve lived here long enough to see the Hired Truck Scandal, unapologetic nepotism, a woeful Tax Increment Financing system, one that lent 18 million dollars from my tax district to build a new public school that, because of politics, my 19 month old son may never be allowed to attend. And, unlike the tangential ridiculous relationships with Bill Ayers or Osama Bin Laden that republicans attempted to paint as BFF or is that BTFF ? (best terrorist friends forever) situations, Obama was closer to the most recently indicted Blago buddy Tony Rezko. In fact, there was that whole shady land deal to buy his sweet Kenwood crib. I wondered could any Chicago politician, Obama included, grow up here successfully without kowtowing to the system at some point? Call it gun-shyness. Call it skepticism. Call it what you want. I call…

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In the Know: Radhika Desai

The new season of “Top Chef” (debuting Wednesday on Bravo) might have been filmed in New York, but that won’t stop Chicago from trying to capture the top toque two seasons in a row. Though we’ve lost home-field advantage, hometown girl Radhika “Rad” Desai, executive chef of Between Boutique Cafe and Lounge, is determined as ever to represent and pick up where Stephanie Izard left off.  We caught up with her to see who she is and whether she’s fit for the challenge. Q. What’s the best Chicago-related advice you’ve given or received? A. I had lunch with [Rick Bayless] and my executive chef when I was working at Vermilion.  He told us that Chicago has something for everybody: different tastes, cultures and styles.  As a chef in this city, if you just do what you do and do it well, you will find your niche. Q. If I were to come to Wicker Park, where should I eat? A. I’m a big fan of Rodan, Vintage Wine Bar and Mac’s.  Rodan [1530 N. Milwaukee] is a hip lounge with a menu that has Asian and Latin flavors blended together very well.  Vintage [1942 W. Division] is a small wine…

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Bread Winners

On a Saturday night at 2 a.m., most 24-year-olds are probably slurping down one last drink in some neighborhood bar.

In the know: Randy Zweiban

While the culinary world is full of flash-in-the-pan itinerant chefs, Randy Zweiban is a serial monogamist.  He worked for Norman Van Aken for seven years in Miami and spent the last 10 years helming the stove at Nacional 27.  Now he’s just launched his Spanish- and Latin-influenced American culinary vision at Province.  We caught up with Zweiban to get his thoughts on dining — and drumming and diamonds, too. Q. What’s the best Chicago-related advice you’ve ever given or received? Q. There are two seasons: construction and winter.  Seriously, though, Chicago is a great, livable town where people give you loyalty if you give them what they want. … If you work hard to satisfy people in Chicago, you can last a real long time. Q. If I were coming to your neighborhood, where should I eat? A. I live in West Town.  I love Green Zebra [1460 W. Chicago].  There’s a great Italian place, Natalino’s [1523 W. Chicago].  There’s all those old school Italian places like Bari [Foods, 1120 W. Grand] and D’Amato’s [Bakery, 1124 W. Grand].  May Street Market [1132 W. Grand] also does a good job. Q. You were a diamond setter and a drummer before you…

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I Can See for Miles

In a month, when you’re digging your car out of six inches of dirty, slushy snow, you likely won’t mistake Chicago for the sunny climes of Miami or Tampa. But, right now, with the sun still peeking through the clouds, and the fact that, like sushi joints and the taquerias before, there now seems to be a Cuban sandwich joint on every corner, you can be forgiven if you think you’re in Florida.