One of America’s best chefs launched his career at Wendy’s Hamburgers. It’s been a long road since those early days. Rick Tramonto has worked at Tavern on the Green, Gotham Bar and Grill, and Charlie Trotter’s. He’s opened up some of Chicago’s best restaurants including Brasserie T, Trio and the award winning TRU. If that weren’t enough, Tramonto also writes cookbooks with a John Grisham like frequency, and in 2001 he won the James Beard Award for best Chef Midwest.
Instead of resting on his laurels, Tramonto is about to launch four new restaurant concepts including Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood, Osteria di Tramonto, RT Lounge, and along with his long time kitchen partner Gale Gand, Gale’s Coffee Bar. The coffee bar and the osteria are slated to open on October 12th at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling. We sat down to talk about the new concepts, and as it turns out the Wendy’s beginning isn’t the only surprising thing I learn. Tramonto is remarkably complex, candid, and fascinating. In this interview we talk about spirtuality, family, drugs, divorce, success, the invention of the caviar staircase, and why Mario Batali beat him on Iron Chef.