On March 1, Brian Huston wrapped up his gig as chef de cuisine at Publican to open Boltwood (804 Davis St., Evanston, no phone yet), a market-driven restaurant taking the space of the former fixture LuLu’s Dim Sum and Then Sum. Here are some highlights from our conversation, condensed and edited.
“A trip to New Orleans sprang my interest in cooking professionally. I had a contact with Jimmy Bannos [of Heaven on Seven]. I figured since I could grill and make spaghetti, I could work anywhere. So I called Bannos. He said, ‘You ought to go work for Charlie Trotter.’ So I called Charlie Trotter. Day after day. About 80 times. He finally returned my call. At Trotter’s, I lasted four days. They were making mayonnaise from scratch. I didn’t know what rosemary was.
“[After stints at Heaven on Seven, San Francisco’s Zuni Café, Blackbird, and staging around Europe,] I told Paul [Kahan, of Blackbird], ‘I think I’m going to move to Colorado.’ Paul said, ‘You are crazy. There’s no good food in Colorado.’ ‘Maybe I can bring some good food there,’ I said. I struggled for six and a half years. I was stubborn and didn’t want to admit that Paul was right. I worked about 12 restaurants in one year. They were all terrible, and I had an attitude problem.
“[About Boltwood,] Paul asked me, ‘You’re not doing Publican North, are you?’ No, but it’s not like I have hidden cuisine up my sleeve either. [Gross. —Eds.] If the Publican is pork, beer, and oysters, we are going to be fish, beer, and wine. Just kidding.
“Boltwood is named after an old Evanston educator, Henry Boltwood. And actually a wing of the high school is also named after him. We were throwing names around for months. One of my smart-ass friends said, ‘Why don’t you call it Boltwood after this cafeteria we used to go to?’ Maybe some day the next generation will think the high school named the building after my restaurant.”
Huston and his partners hope to open Boltwood in June.