Graham Elliot Bowles, the supremely talented four-star chef at Avenues (Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St.; 312-573-6754) for the past four years, is leaving to open Graham Elliot in the former Harvest on Huron space at 217 West Huron Street. “The idea is to do four-star cuisine in a completely different atmosphere,” says Bowles. “I’m doing away with linen and florals and the silver and the crystal and making the space as reflective of the chef as possible. Instead of fine dining I think of it as ‘redefined dining,’ in the bistronomic sense of the word. To just be humble and serve the food we believe in.” Like what? “Dishes such as aged Cheddar risotto with Pabst-braised onions, smoked bacon, green apples, and Cheez-Its,” Bowles says. “And there’s going to be a bar and lounge element focusing on the art of mixology and handcrafted cocktails like a deconstructed Bloody Mary with horseradish sorbet, jellied vodka, Tabasco bubbles, and celery salt.” Bowles will bring several members of his Avenues team over, including sous-chef Leonard Hollander. Expect a May opening.
Bowles’s replacement at Avenues, Curtis Duffy, 32, has an impeccable pedigree. A Columbus, Ohio, native, Duffy most recently was Grant Achatz’s right-hand man at Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110); prior to that he worked as a pastry chef at Trio. Before that? Three years at Charlie Trotter’s (816 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-248-6228) in the front and back of the house, where he worked with Bowles. We chatted with Duffy briefly:
D: When do you officially take over?
CD: Mid-April. My main menu won’t be in play until mid-April, the earliest. For now, it’s Elliot’s food. He will be there through the end of March.
D: Do you know who your competition was?
CD: Not really. They kept it under wraps.
D: What was your wow audition dish?
CD: That would have been a Thai olive oil–poached hamachi. It was served with smoked coconut pudding, basil, coriander, soy sauce, and yuzu. A lot of Thai flavors.
D: Will you have the freedom to bring these flavors to the Peninsula dining room?
CD: Yes. They are very receptive to what I want to do. The food is going to be exciting, its going to be new, it’s going to be very well thought out. It’s certainly going to be playful.