Nick Lacasse, executive chef of the Drawing Room, is a “Top Chef” slayer. Â Just four days after former Scylla chef-owner Stephanie Izard was crowned Top Chef on the Bravo television show, Lacasse bested her in a head-to-head throwdown at his restaurant.
Lacasse, a veteran of Spring, Green Zebra and Custom House, uncorked his battle magic with courses like sauteed foie gras with walnut crostini, pickled fennel and kumquats gastrique and pumpkin seed-crusted lamb chops with smoked potato puree, roasted shallot and Bing cherry relish and spearmint oil. Â We check in with the champ after his success.
Q. How did it feel to beat Stephanie Izard? Â Does this make you Top Chef Chicago?
A. I’ve known Stephanie for five years and it was an honor to have her in my kitchen. Â It certainly doesn’t make me Top Chef Chicago. Â I had the home court advantage for the evening, so things might have been different if we were in Stephanie’s kitchen.
Q. What was your secret? Â Was it the foie gras?
A. The execution of the dinner was a major challenge for both of us; I think my catering experience came into play; that certainly helped in turning out so many plates. Â It was fun to work with foie gras again. Â I chose a fairly simple rendition to reintroduce it to Chicago palates.
Q. What’s your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?
A. There’s a great bar called the Chipp Inn [832 N. Greenview]. Â It’s filled with industry people and has a great “old man” bar vibe.
Q. If I came to your neighborhood, where would you insist I visit?
A. I’d take you to Farmer’s Pride [756 N. Western]. Â It is run by this Polish family, and they always stock great produce and good quality meat at fantastic prices. Â Another place is an awesome little coffee shop called the Star Lounge [2521 W. Chicago]. Â It’s very bohemian and artistic.
Q. What’s the best Chicago-related advice you’ve ever heard?
A. Get out and explore the city. Â For no other reason than to ditch the same scenery and get out of your element, I’d recommend visiting a different neighborhood every week.
Q. You tend to cook gourmeted-up ethnic comfort food classics like Pad Thai and Korean BBQ. Â Why?
A. I am a huge fan of many different ethnic foods, but it seems that the ratios are not exactly how I would prepare them. Â With Pad Thai, you generally get 80 percent noodles and just a little of the good stuff. Â I reverse that ratio and include more of the dynamic flavors.
Q. Is it tougher to cook for the cocktail-and-club crowd rather than, say, a regular fine-dining setting?
A. Sharing a wall with the nightclub can present its share of challenges. Â Particularly since the nightclub servers are in and out of the kitchen. Â Our connection to Le Passage is a great benefit to customers, though. Â In the early hours, the Drawing Room caters to a fine-dining crowd. Â Later on it transforms into more of a lounge. Â But either way, people get exceptional food and drinks at all hours.
Drawing Room; 937 N. Rush St., Chicago (312) 266-2694