Chefs on the Grill with Michael Nagrant - Rick Tramonto
Each month food journalist Michael Nagrant conducts an interview with either a well-known or emerging Chicago chef. This month, Nagrant chats with Rick Tramonto of Tru and several upcoming spots in the northwest suburbs.
MN: Do you worry about attaching your name to so many projects?
RT: I just ate at Jean-Georges, and it was one of the best meals I've ever had. Whatever (Jean-Georges Vongerichten) does with his other projects, he'll never take his eye off Jean-Georges. That's how we look at Tru.
MN: How have you preserved your partnership with Gand after your divorce?
RT: I've known Gale since I was 17. She's one of my best friends. We loved each other - we just couldn't stay married. But we built this empire, 50-50: I can't do what Gale does; Gale can't do what I do. Put us in a restaurant, and we click.
MN: What do you think of your protégés using liquid nitrogen and lasers in the kitchen?
RT: I learn technology where it applies to my food, but I'm not going to throw away what I've learned over 28 years. Paul Bocuse walked through my kitchen and was blown away, but he didn't run back to Lyon and start changing things. Besides, nobody's going to do it better than those guys.
MN: How does your spirituality impact your work?
RT: I just told one of my teams, "You guys know my belief in Christ, and it's important that you represent me properly." This industry is drug-infested, and a lot of chefs blow it. I used to have a drug problem. A lot of pot and cocaine and acid. Did four or five months of drug rehab, and totally cleaned up.
MN: What happened in that foie gras flap with Charlie Trotter?
RT: I?ve never seen anything get more blown out of proportion. When we made Newsweek and Time, I called Charlie and said, "We should have thought of this a lot earlier, bud."