Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coup de Gras After working both coasts, a fashion plate French chef tailors his dream fish restaurant in the Midwest's Carnivore City.

You cook like you look." So chef Laurent Gras informed his partner, Richard Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, as they prepared to open Chicago's L2O this May. Exactly. With his spiky hair and custom designed stretch denim chef's jacket narrowly fitted in gray and white pinstripes, this lithe, handsome Frenchman is clearly more Armani than abbondanza. The polar opposite of a Molto Mario, Gras meticulously plates perfectly cut sashimi and tiny freeze-dried raspberries using a tweezer. No steaming platters here.

A corollary might be that you also cook like your kitchen looks. Philippe Starck pendant lamps illuminate the work counters covered with black silicone mats. Nonskid floor tiles could easily be mistaken for slate. Neatly labeled rows of clear plastic Oxo containers displaying spices inspire closet envy of Carrie Bradshaw magnitude. Chic, calm, modern, restrained, perfectly ordered. "It's very comfortable to work here. There's less stress. You're not so tired," Gras says. "When the staff feels comfortable, the diner feels more comfortable."

Gras' personal passion, the sashimi station, headlines the kitchen, and it's there where he stands to expedite. From that vantage point, a clear sightline runs through the entire length of the kitchen. He can see every station, every cook. And he can keep an eagle eye on the fish. This son of the Mediterranean, who grew up in Antibes, confirms that he has "a very strong interest in fish."

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  1. I am sending my hubby an email asking if he has heard of this place...great post...I am subscribing to your blogger site to keep up with you. I do not get to look at foodbuzz as often as I would like...and I like your writing style...Thanks Michael!

  2. I agree with Chef E (waves to Chef E), great writing and informative posts.