The dirty little secret of many chef-driven restaurants is that after many years of success, the chef no longer works in the kitchen every day. For some restaurants, this spells inevitable failure. Other restaurants hire brilliant successors who can execute the original chef’s spirit but meld their own talents into the original vision.
After 10 years, with two successful restaurants (Blackbird, Avec) under his belt, Paul Kahan hasn’t completely relinquished his stoves. Even though he has his hands full planning a new palate pleaser slated to open this fall in the Fulton Market district, Kahan still shows up at Blackbird, to collaborate on menus. Mike Sheerin, a former sous chef from the New York’s WD-50, reaps the benefit of a daily dose of Kahan.
While WD-50 is a temple of molecular gastronomy, Sheerin has reined in the lasers and liquid nitrogen at Blackbird. Instead, he’s added a light touch of whimsy to Kahan’s seasonal New American fare, such as garnishing parsnip soup with fried and seasoned puffed rice or pairing smoked grapes with venison.
Q. What would you change about the Chicago food scene?
A. I wish you didn’t have to drive to every restaurant you want to go to, especially since I don’t have a car.
Q. What would your last meal be?
A. My mom’s linguini with clam sauce.
Q. Where do you eat before a shift?
A. I get coffee at Sip, 1223 W. Grand.
Q. What is Blackbird’s can’t-miss dish?
A. Grilled California sturgeon with oyster mushrooms, spring peas, rye gnocchi, guanciale and mustard.
Q. What should we know about Blackbird we probably don’t?
A. The partners who run the restaurant, Donnie Madia, Eduard Seitan, Rick Darmit and Paul Kahan, named the holding company for all their businesses 4KH Inc., which stands for “Four Knuckleheads.”
Blackbird; 619 W. Randolph, Chicago (312) 715-0708