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Sixteen’s New Chef Wants to Focus on Ingredients

He’s gradually shifting away from Thomas Lents’ story-focused cooking at the Trump Tower restaurant.

Turbot at Sixteen   Photo: Neil Burger

Why haven’t you heard of Nick Dostal, whose last two gigs have been in the shadows of Curtis Duffy and Thomas Lents? “The focus is on the guy who is at the top, and I’ve been the guy next to the guy at the top,” he explains.

Now you’ll get a chance to know Dostal, the newly inaugurated executive chef at two Michelin-starred Sixteen (Trump International Hotel & Tower, 401 N. Wabash Ave., River North); the 30-year-old is officially the “guy at the top.” “I think over the next couple of months you will see more of me,” Dostal says.

After Lents’ departure (for a gig in Detroit) last month, Dostal quietly stepped into the kitchen’s top spot; the transition will be gradual, and the chef won’t unveil his updated menu for another few weeks. He says glimpses of his cheffing style—and some of his dishes—were already on Sixteen’s menu during Lents’ tenure, but he’s got changes up his sleeve. That translates to a slightly tweaked philosophy. “Instead of letting the story drive the meal [as Lents did], I want the ingredients to be the story,” says Dostal, who notes that he has built relationships with esteemed purveyors and “sources for pretty amazing products.”

Foodwise, expect Dostal to showcase the classic French, regional Italian, and new American cuisine of his culinary training, as well as the Japanese influence he gleaned through personal travels. One of his proudest creations—a poached and roasted Turbot stuffed with mushroom duxelles and topped with sautéed chanterelles and a sauce of calvados—is already on the menu.

While he’ll maintain both a chef’s tasting menu and a prix fixe menu with options, he reiterates that Sixteen’s diners are in for something new. “I am not the storyteller Lents was. For me to follow that format would almost be to discredit him,” he says. “If he was the history teacher, you can call me the crazy chemistry teacher.”

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