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Chicago’s 2018 James Beard Nominees

A’s List: Get a Taste of Chicago’s 2018 James Beard Nominees Another year, another class of James Beard nominees from Chicago. Some names you’ll recognize as previous nominees, while others are new in the game. Nevertheless, if you haven’t checked them out by now, it’s time to make a reservation. Here’s our cheat sheet on […]

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Apr 19, 2018 07:55 PM
Chicago Weekly Planner: Chef’s Dinners, Cocktail Class & Late-night

Chicago Weekly Planner: Chef’s Dinners at Bistro Campagne In case you needed another reason to revisit one of Lincoln Square’s most enduring gems, Bistro Campagne just rolled out a new monthly dinner series that promises to get guests a front-row seat to all the culinary action. Executive chef Luke Creagon and beverage director Alex Uribe have created […]

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Apr 15, 2018 11:18 PM
Weekly Planner: Cooking Classes and New Brunche Locations

The Moonlighter Launches Brunch One of the newest brunch menus in town can now be savored at Logan Square newcomer The Moonlighter. Available every Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:00 a.m., brunch features inventive comfort fare by chef Mickey Neeley, whose menu boasts the likes of corn flake-crusted bananas Foster French toast with vanilla bean pudding […]

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Mar 26, 2018 09:12 PM

Meet The Monarch's New Executive Chef Michael DeStefano

The Monarch recently appointed Michael DeStefano as their new executive chef, stepping in to fill the kitchen clogs vacated by Andrew Brochu. Most recently, DeStefano served as The Monarch's sous chef, but he and Brochu have a history that runs deeper than Ross and Rachel. The two worked together at Kith & Kin (RIP), EL Ideas, and graham elliot before moving to The Monarch, where DeStefano's straightforward style really shines. Here, DeStefano elaborates on his cooking experiences and time spent working alongside Brochu.

Dining Chicago: What are the most memorable lessons you learned while working alongside Andrew Brochu?

Michael DeStefano: As far as cooking goes, Andrew has an inspiring creative mindset. He has discussed with me his process of creating new dishes, which I loved. To someone reading a description of a dish he might have created, you could look at it and wonder how on Earth he could come up with those flavor combinations. But if you understand the process of how he develops a dish and pairs flavors, you will see that nothing is forced for the sake of just being original. The flavors all work together in some way or another before anything even touches a plate.

When Andrew offered me a job at Kith & Kin, he told me about his experience in the industry, and told me he could offer a lot of knowledge when it comes to food and cooking. But he told me the most important thing he would be able to teach me is about cleanliness and organization. And that extends from not only your work station, but to the walk-ins, your apron, and to the dish pit. Kitchens are fast-paced environments, so you have to move fast. But that shouldn't mean sprinting. It means working efficiently. And if you want to work efficiently, you have to be clean and you have to be organized, both physically and mentally.

The third thing I learned from Andrew is to trust yourself and stand by your food. This was important to me in the growing process as a cook. You need to be confident in order to do this job. Don't let the fear of making a mistake ever get in the way of your job. It is important in order to learn and get better.

Dining Chicago: How does it feel to be on your own at the helm of the kitchen?

DeStefano: It feels good. I'm definitely not on my own though. I have a lot of support throughout the restaurant. There are changes that will take getting used to, but I am ready to embrace them.

Michael DeStefano
(Michael DeStefano)

Dining Chicago: How (if at all) are you doing things differently at The Monarch than when Andrew was there?

DeStefano: Andrew did a good job putting a lot of systems in place at The Monarch in order for this place to run efficiently. It's my job to look at them and see what is working and what might need to change. We talked about how this would be my first executive chef position, and how I will push very hard in seeing that I set a standard for myself and for my food.

Dining Chicago: Describe your personal cooking style/philosophies. How do they differ and relate to Andrew and how do they align with The Monarch?

DeStefano: Andrew and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, so our philosophies about food are very similar, but his style and his goals are on a different level than mine. I like super casual, unfussy food, but doing that and not making it boring is what interests me. I think The Monarch is a great outlet for me to cook food that is stimulating enough for me, but will not intimidate guests. It really comes down to being able to season a good product.

Andrew wants to push boundaries with food, doing something that hasn't been done before. That is the mindset and the purpose of Alinea, Next, Aviary, etc., along with executing it on the highest level. I've never worked for any of those places, but I like to consider Chef Achatz in my mentoring tree, through Andrew. It's always exciting to think about that. And that is how the industry evolves and gets better, whether it's what Andrew will be doing at the Aviary or what I will be doing at The Monarch.

Tags: The Monarch
Neighborhoods: River NorthWest LoopLittle Italy, UICWicker Park

graham elliot considers itself the first "bistronomic" restaurant in Chicago, juxtaposing four-star cuisine and accessibility in a fun and whimsical environment. The menus are a la carte, tasting (paired with...

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Former MeatyBalls food truck owner Phillip Foss opened a ballsy, six-seater in the heart of Pilsen to explore the food he really wants to cook. To snag a hard-to-get reservation,...

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Fine dining alum Michael DeStefano is at the helm of the space formerly occupied by the Wicker Park location of Uberstein. Having previously worked alongside acclaimed chef Andrew Brochu, DeStefano...

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