Five Questions for Michael McDonald
Mussels at Luxbar
McDonald, the former chef/parking-lot farmer at One Sixtyblue, took over the kitchen at Luxbar (18 E. Bellevue Pl., 312-642-3400) in July, but the formal announcement of his tenure there came only this past week, after the Dining Diva outed him. He told us about moving to an established, high-volume restaurant.
Dish: How did you link up with Luxbar?
Michael McDonald: I was looking. They were always excited about the farm-to-table movement. [The] GM is very excited about farm-to-table. He has a garden on his own rooftop.
D: What’s something you changed on the menu?
MM: The chicken sandwich. [The old version] was piled high, in fried strips and on a long six-inch sourdough baguette. The bread was crunchy and maybe didn’t look like a friendly sandwich to eat. [The new version has] a whole breast of chicken that we dip in buttermilk and seasoned flour. We fry that and top it with cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, [homemade] apple cider barbecue sauce, and an apple-mint coleslaw.
D: What’s something you’re particularly proud of introducing?
MM: Our pork program. We get one whole hog every week from Slagel Farms. We use everything. We are making our own Canadian bacon, our own ham, our own chili fennel sausage, our own breakfast sausage patty. The rest of the hog we use for a roasted barbecue sandwich.
D: Is there anything that differentiates your hogs from other in-house butchers’?
MM: I ran into a guy making his own artisanal single-batch soy sauce in Louisville, Kentucky. Aged in bourbon barrels. In this process, when they strain the barrels and press out the juice, they are left over with this mash—wheat, soy, salt, and water. “What are you doing with this?” I asked the guy. “Nothing.” So I bought his byproduct and shipped it to Slagel Farms. We are feeding them this kind of mash from soy-sauce production in addition to their regular diet.
D: Does that change the taste of the pork?
MM: We think it does. We are the only ones in the country doing this, that I know of.
Photograph: Courtesy of Luxbar