Name- Chef Paul Kahan
Age - 39
Education - Bachelor's degree in applied math
and computer science, Northern Illinois University.
Resume - Metropolis, Erwin Drechsler, Frontera
Grill and Topolobampo, Rick Bayless
Greatest lesson from Rick Bayless - I learnt
a few from Rick; treat people fairly, as you would wish
to be treated yourself. I learnt the importance of being
even keeled and how to run a business, look after people
and they will look after the business. In regard to
the food; redefine, improve and turn the screws on what
you are doing.
What other chef (that you have not worked with)
has influenced you? - Alice Waters, she is product
driven, there is simplicity within her food and she
cooks with the seasons. From her first book I have found
her an inspiration. Then there is Charlie Trotter; his
unrelenting quest for excellence, his achievements and
for what he has given back to the culinary community.
A piece of advice to another chef who is planning
to open their own restaurant - Don't do it! Seriously,
write a punch list each day, work through the list,
be methodical. There are so many things that require
your attention it is easy to become fazed.
What do you think of the Chicago food scene and
why do you think some of the restaurants are making
it and others not?- The food scene is exploding
here. The new high end hotels (Hyatt & Peninsula)
are bringing a lot to the city, two of Chicago's restaurants
making it to the Food & Wine top ten restaurant
lists, the sous chef from the French Laundry taking
over the kitchen's of Trio makes it all pretty exciting.
I think there are many reasons that restaurants are
not making it, when you run a restaurant you need to
pay attention to details and continuity. The guest needs
to know what they are going to get, not just the food
the whole experience, it needs to come together at the
What is more important, local or organic produce?
- That is a tough question, probably local overrides
organic. A farm can run as a certified organic producer
of produce, but the fertilizers that some of them use
require a high amount of fossil fuel to process. This
pretty much defeats the philosophy of looking after
our environment. It is important to work with and support
our local growers. Additionally it's important to know
where the food came from and who grew it.
hot on your menu right now? - Pan-roasted Alaskan
halibut with wild mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, green
garlic and aioli... Wood-grilled wild King Salmon with
Juliet tomatoes, chanterelles, chives and gribiche ....
Sautéed walleye pike and California Spot Prawns with
sweet peas, pea shoots, lemon vinaigrette and mint...
Roasted Bobwhite Quail breast with crispy sweetbreads,
organic spinach, potato puree and natural juices
Any plans for a cook book? - Yes! We are it
the early stages, but hopefully within a year we should
be ready in about 12 months. I am going to be working
with a food artist that I have known for years. He will
be painting some of the dishes that will be featured
in the book, it will give the book a different edge.
There is a lot of work to do!
Is it difficult being married to someone who is
not in the business? - We have been together a long
time. Our relationship is successful because we make
sure we spend time together, an hour in the morning,
a couple of hours at night and quality time on our days
off. My wife also keeps herself very busy working pretty
much two jobs, she works at the University of Illinois
four days a week and then teaches yoga in the evening.
I think it would be a lot tougher if she worked 9-5
and just sat at home waiting for me.
Do you cook at home? - Sometimes, we kind of
share that one.
Favorite Chicago restaurant? -> Not an easy
question to answer, right now I like Lula, simple food
Where do you eat breakfast? - Lula does breakfast
too! I also often eat breakfast at the restaurant.
When was the last time you crashed your bike? -Three
weeks ago I went over the hood of a car that was pulling
out of an alley way, the guys look terrified they thought
they had killed me!
A word of advice for the chef of tomorrow -
Get ready to work you ass off! If you get in to this
business you need to realize it is not glamorous, you
need to love food and people. Finally you need to be
dedicated if you want to succeed.