20 Questions with Chef Chris Curren - Blue 13 & Elate

20 Questions with Chef Chris Curren - Blue 13 & Elate

Chris Curren isn't a chef you would quickly name as an elite member of the culinary world in Chicago. He isn’t an attention whore like some and manages two very different kitchens. I learned a lot about Chris when I researched the questions for this week. After our conversation, it’s only made me want to eat his food more often.

Check him out at Lolla this weekend or grab a bite at Blue 13 or Elate, soon. Enjoy today’s 20 questions!

Name                                         Chris Curren
Restaurant                               Blue 13 & Elate
Married                                     No
Kids                                             No  
Age                                             32 – on the day we talked!
From                                          I consider my home Cleveland.
Culinary School                    Pennsylvania Culinary Institute – I think it’s defunct now  
Knife Hand                              Left
Twitter Handle                     @blue13chris

1. What did you have for lunch yesterday?
I don’t tend to eat lunch. I get time to eat one meal a day. At some point I eat.

2. Place you eat most often on days off?
Usually, I’m at home.

3. Favorite ingredient to work with?
Wow that’s a loaded question – I guess right now I’m having fun with octopus.

4. If I gave you $5,000 how would you spend it?
Chris: Laughs – I’d probably go to dinner at Alinea
CFS: Would you blow the whole $5,000.
Chris: I’d come as close as I could.

5. First word that comes to mind when I say Michelin?
I’ll pass since I don’t think its fit to print.

6. Last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in?
Paris

7. If you weren’t cooking, what would you do for a living?
Chris: I always wanted to be a musician but God didn’t give me that talent.
CFS: If you were to play are you guitar, drums?
Chris: I’d be guitar and lead singer – I’ve got that lead singer complex.
CFS: Would you have the added skill of the keyboard as a guitar?
Chris: No.

8. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Chris: I think I wanted to be a pro baseball player
CFS: Position?
Chris: Pitcher

9. If you left Chicago to cook somewhere else, where would you go?
I think I’d say NYC at this point in my career. I’m a city guy and LA is spread out. I like dense city areas. So many cool things going on I think it would be easy to go to any major city and do some cool fun stuff. But if I had to pick one it would be NY

10. Most embarrassing cooking moment?
Chris: There are a lot of them…hmm…Blue 13 just turned 3 on Sunday and about 25 minutes before our opening night I cut a big chunk of my finger off. I’m a new restaurant, never owned one and a staff that doesn’t know me yet.
CFS: Did you bandage it up and work through?
Chris: Oh ya, there was nothing I could do.

11. Person you would most like to cook for?
Um, I would love to be able to cook for one of my grandparents. They all passed away before I got my career going.

12. Do you have any pet peeves?
Chris: Many – so many to list.
CFS: Any one in particular?
Chris: Ya, the biggest one is when people come in and go through the motions. They’re not thinking what they’re doing or why…just doing a half ass job.

13. What is new on your DVR?
The newest thing is the series Finale of Friday Night Lights. Greatest show ever.

14. Karaoke song?
I don’t sing karaoke

15. Dish on the menu you eat most?
The Pork Chop at Blue 13

16. What do you feel is going to be your biggest challenge to lollapalooza food fest?
The biggest challenge is trying to gauge how much food you need. If you buy too much you lose money and if you don’t buy enough you lose out on money. Finding that portion amount that you need to sell to make it just right.

17. What act are you hoping to cook for?
Chris: There are many I’d love to cook for. Foo Fighters, Flogging Molly, love the Deftones
CFS: Those are all bands you’ll hope to see while there?
Chris: Laughs - Oh I will see – I figure everyone I want to see is Sunday so I’ll let everyone see everything before.

18. Did you burn your LeBron jersey?
Who? I don’t know who that is…if that answers your question.

19. You can tell you have tattoos on your arms…are you fully inked on your chest and back?
Chris: I have a chest piece. I’ll hopefully soon start my back piece and plans to do the rest of my upper body.
CFS: Is there a method to your ink?
Chris: You know each one is from a place and time in my life. They all have meaning at that point.  Some of them the meanings changed and some are good reminders…who did it? What I was doing at that time? It’s kind of a timeline of my life.
CFS: Any regrets?
Chris: No, none. Some I’d put in different places.

20. You manage 2 kitchens in Chicago, you’ve earned accolades from Esquire “Top 20 Best New Chris: Restaurants in America” and Bon Appetite’s Top 50 in 2005 from your work in Cleveland. Do you feel you don’t get enough accolades and the press writes about the same chefs?
Chris: Wow, this is going to really piss off my PR guy. I do. Ya, in Chicago I think for the most part they write about the same 10-15 chefs and if someone with a name opens a place that place gets written about for a while. I think there are a lot of restaurants, not just us, that don’t get attention. There are 7,000 restaurants in this city and every time I pick up a food article the same 20 are getting written about. That’s a shame there a lot of people working their asses off putting out great food that no one is talking about. We’re lucky because we do get talked about. We’re not getting the accolades we’d want or all of the attention we might deserve….for me the food media is failing in this city, they report well, the reviewers are accurate. I’d just like to see attention given to other people.
CFS: I appreciate the honesty. Is there any where you absolutely love no one is talking about?
Chris: There are a lot of places I love. 3 Aces does some phenomenal food and while they get press they don’t get enough. The Bedford is great food but they get more press as a place to be seen than the food.

21. I’ve seen your food described as twisted or on acid…how would you describe your creative approach?
My whole thing is I try to take flavors, ingredients and things people know and I try to tear them apart and build them back up in ways people don’t think of. Right now at Blue we’re doing a rhubarb pie – we made a newton cookie, filled it with rhubarb preserves and we do two frozen spheres of rhubarb on top with a lemon infused olive oil powdered on that plate. You have all the elements of a rhubarb pie but not in the way that people expect. That’s what makes it fun and interesting for me. I could make a normal pie but there has to be something interesting in it for me. But I don’t want it to be so far off people don’t recognize or get it.

Thanks for taking the time chef!

 If you liked these 20 questions, check out the how Ryan Poli, Francis Brenna, Giuseppe Tentori, Charlie McKennaChris Pandel , Michael MuserCurtis Duffy , Rob Katz/Kevin Boehm, and Michael Taus answered.

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at chicagofoodsnob@hotmail.com. Joe is retained as a compensated blogger by Pei Wei Asian Diner.

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