Compliments of the Chef with Ryan Poli

Compliments of the Chef with Ryan Poli

This week, Chefs Feed met up with renowned chef Poli at his restaurant in River North.

December 6, 2013
CF: I'm best known for my _______ but I can make one hell of a _______. 
RP: hair (just kidding)—interpretation/twist on classical dishes; "White-boy" Chinese dish 

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you. 
RP: Understanding, disciplined, and sometimes a bit of a tyrant. 

CF: What are you most excited about right now in your restaurant? 
RP: We have this Uruguayan wood-burning grill that we just realized isn't being utilized to its fullest capacity. It was specially made for us and weighs like, 2,000 pounds. It's huge! Put it this way: if the whole building were to burn down, that would still be standing. We've now dedicated an entire section to it on our menu, including chicken, steak, and veggies. With our vegetables, for example, we build the fire, wait for the ash to die down, then put them directly inside the ash and roast them that way. We're really utilizing all the different types of wood and are also grilling our bread on there now, too. 

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with? 
RP: If we're talking any time period, I'd have to say La Pyramide in Vienne, France. Just to be working among the caliber of chefs that came from there would be amazing. To me, this is the history behind many of today's best chefs. As for my current pick, it would have to be my friend chef René Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

CF: Insider tip from the kitchen for diners. 
RP: Always go for the sharing style of dining. This way you can taste more, see more of the chef's creativity, and get out of your comfort zone. If you end up not liking one dish, it's not that big of a deal because you still have more things to taste. Be more adventurous and taste more food. I think this is where the industry is headed. Every restaurant my friends and I go to ends up turning into a shared dinner. We just tell them to bring out the whole menu. 

CF: Message to professional food critics. 
RP: This is a business but it's also our livelihood, and critics have a lot of say and power that could really implement somebody's business going under. So please give an honest review of the whole restaurant. Don't just talk about the food. We put a lot of time and energy into the design of the restaurant, the wine list, the china we use—it's a whole experience and it seems many times all I read about is the food. However, there is one critic, Phil Vettel from the Chicago Tribune, who gives a great overall review and actually calls to fact-check. 

CF: One piece of advice for aspiring young chefs. 
RP: Make sure to work in a restaurant before you spend the money on culinary school. Get a summer job somewhere and make sure it's something you actually want to do, because it's not a job but a lifestyle. Forget your weekends, forget your friends, and kiss your family goodbye. 

CF: Is there anything you don't like? 
RP: I don't like raw onion. I just don't like eating it and I don't like giving it to guests either, because it tends to kind of stay with them. Before I use it, like in an aioli for example, I like to really mute it or take the bitterness out by blanching it first. 

CF: Thick or thin patty? 
RP: Thin. Super thin. 

CF: What’s for family meal tonight? 
RP: Paella, which is always a huge success here when Pablo is making it. I don't care what I'm doing or if I've already eaten, I'm having Pablo's paella.