Intro (2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Lincoln Park, 773-868-0002), Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ tasting-menu incubator, rotates to a new chef at the end of July. Aaron Martinez, whose culinary career has stopped at San Francisco’s Quince, Oakland’s Commis, and for a pan-flash as the chef de cuisine at Elizabeth, will launch his five-course menu on July 30.
Martinez started cooking to earn money while training to be a firefighter. After culinary school, he worked at Addison in San Diego under William Bradley, whom he considers his mentor. “William tastes food better than anyone I’ve worked for,” he says. “His food tastes are explosive and pure. Very, very simple.”
Martinez’s French–influenced modern American menu should evince that kind of precision—no more than three or four ingredients per dish, a changing line-up of courses based on produce availability, and not a lot of cream or butter, he says. His opening menu's second course, for instance, will riff on melon and prosciutto. Benton’s Country Ham, from the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, will be served with tomato water, watermelon, and seaweed sauce. A beef course will take a smoked, grilled short rib and combine it with grilled globe-eggplant purée, pickled eggplants, grilled green onions, green-onion purée, and macerated, lightly brined cherries. Dessert will put strawberry sorbet with frozen elderflower mousse and almonds.
It can’t be easy to swoop into an unfamiliar kitchen and start turning out tasting menus, but Martinez sounds like he has set his course. Not to mention he probably knows how to put out a grease fire.