Back in 2001, Valerie Bolon and Stephanie Izard were line cooks at Shawn McClain's acclaimed Spring restaurant.
Seven years later, the two friends were linked in another way -- both appearing on Season 4 of Top Chef, set in Chicago. Izard, of course, won that competition and Bolon was the second to get booted off.
Since her experience on the show, Bolon has decided to go the personal chef route, cooking for regular and new clients in the comfort of their own homes.
But she's also teamed up with another personal chef, Rachel Winpar, to create the Culinary Speakeasy series, a monthly dinner at Winpar's downtown condo where they flex their skills for up to 30 people.
"I don't think anyone's doing what we're doing, because it's a unique experience to bring people together in a quaint cosy setting in a unique ambience with food and wine," Bolon says. "By the end of the night, everyone gets comfortable and knows each other."
They've been tweaking the concept since November, but this Saturday is the official launch of the series, a BYOB affair that costs $75 a head.
"We like to throw surprises in the mix, like bringing in local wine purveyors to do tastings. It's a good way to get others involved," Bolon says.
Saturday's six-course menu includes:
- Pan roasted halibut with crab, beets and marinated plum salad and truffle vinaigrette.
- Thai coconut soup with parsnip and ginger dumplings with a sweet soy quail egg.
- Maple glazed venison, sweet pea puree and chantrelles.
- Homemade sunchoke and pear ravioli and crispy pancetta.
- Seared rack of lamb with fennel and sweet potato stuffing bread pudding and braised greens.
- Sticky orange pistachio cake, basil sorbet, candied kumquats and sour cherry sauce.
RSVP here for Saturday's dinner.
Check out Feast: The first word and final score on Chicago's restaurant scene, featuring videos, photos, news, commentary and the definitive Feast Rank. Sit Down to Feast Now