This month, Nagrant chats with Debra Sharpe, who has revamped and expanded her space at Cru Café & Wine Bar (25 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-337-4001) to include an outpost of her upscale Bucktown to-go hit, The Goddess and Grocer (1646 N. Damen Ave.; 773-342-3200).
MN: What’s going on in your expanded space?
DS: Cru is a lot larger and we’ve moved it a little bit down Delaware. We took over the hotel lobby, the nail salon, and dry cleaners. But we’ve kept it warm, Frenchy-looking.
MN: Feast has been open so long in Bucktown, and you’re now on your second Goddess and Grocer. What’s your entrepreneurial secret?
DS: Every time I’ve tried to do something upscale I’ve failed. Feast is just a neighborhood place. No, it’s not the best food in Chicago, and it’s not the best service, but we try our hardest, and you get value for your money. We do 500 people for brunch every Sunday. It’s a madhouse.
MN: Did your Melbourne upbringing give you a different way of looking at food?
DS: I’m sure it does. We ate very simply. We had salad on the table every night and a lot of lamb growing up. The food was all very fresh.
MN: You have done Feast and the late Tanzy and Con Fusion-very different concepts. What is your food philosophy?
DS: In my other life I was a rock-and-roll backstage caterer, so my food has always been pretty simple. I enjoy ingredients for what they are without having 37 items on a plate.
MN: What rock stars did you like working with?
DS: Linda McCartney was an incredibly warm, comforting, and comfortable woman. Clapton we love. We just finished the Madonna tour. I did curry for Peter Gabriel. He was a vegetarian and I made him a big feast, and he said it was the best food he’d ever had.
MN: So rock stars are just like everybody else.
DS: The older they are, the more famous, the more kind they are. Axl Rose was a bit hard work. UB40 we hated working for-half of them were nice, and the other half were jackasses.