Best New Chef 1999: Paul Kahan
Best New Chef 1999: Paul Kahan

Paul Kahan

F&W Star Chef » See All F&W Chef Superstars Restaurants: Blackbird, The Publican, Avec, Publican Quality Meats, Big Star (Chicago) Experience: Metropolis, Erwin, Topolobampo (Chicago) Education: Northern Illinois University (Computer Science) Who are your food mentors and heroes? Alice Waters resonates in my thoughts on the power of food and its place in society. A great Chicago chef named Erwin Drechsler really taught me how to cook. And Rick Bayless taught me the importance of great ingredients and respect for our farmers, foragers and fisherman. What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?Regional French Cuisine, by Anne Willan. What’s your current food obsession? Since our butcher shop opened about a year ago, I am pretty excited about all things cured, smoked and aged. Name three restaurants you are dying to go to. Manresa, in Los Gatos, California; La Pineta, in Tuscany; and Olivier Roellinger’s le Coquillage, in Brittany. What is the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip? Lots of Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany. What are your hidden talents? I have designed a couple of nice bathrooms for my house, and I’m a pretty good DJ. What ingredient will people be talking about in five years? Fresh water, and the lack of it. What do you eat straight out of the fridge, standing up? I often take a gulp from the maple syrup bottle late at night. What’s your favorite store-bought ingredient? At our butcher shop, Publican Quality Meats, we sell the most amazing peanut butter ever, Cream-Nut, from the Koeze Company, in Grand Rapids Michigan. It tastes like a mouthful of salted peanuts.1999 Best New Chef Bio Background Born in Chicago. Worked at Topolobampo, Erwin and Metropolis Café in Chicago. How he got into cooking Helping out his father, who owned delis and a smoked-fish business. Favorite cookbooks French Regional Cooking by Anne Willan and the Chez Panisse books. Favorite place to eat Jim's Grill, a vegetarian Korean diner on Irving Park Road in Chicago. "You always feel great afterward. And lots of rock bands hang out there." Dish he could eat every day Lake fish—pike, salmon and trout. What he eats at 1 A.M. Dish 131 at River Kwai, an Asian restaurant with 130 dishes on the menu. "It's different every time I ask for it." Strangest customer request One diner wanted each item on his plate kept separate. "So the potatoes couldn't touch the meat; the meat couldn't touch the green beans..." Trend he's most tired of "A little salad on top of everything. It drives me up a wall." Recipe tip Don't buy scallops that are sitting in a pool of creamy liquid. They should be dry and a little sticky and have a sweet, briny smell. If there's no smell at all, they've probably been treated with chemicals. Won Best New Chef at: Blackbird
Chef Paul Kahan uses garlic, lemon juice, chile and the mildly spicy Basque red pepper piment d’Espelette to flavor the oil for his chicken. He brushes half of the seasoned oil on the chicken as it cooks; the rest gets served at the table. Slideshow:  Grilled Chicken Recipes 
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Chef Paul Kahan ramps up this comforting Italian take on mac and cheese with fresh mozzarella, mortadella, eggs and a rich pork ragù. Slideshow:  Baked Pasta Dishes 
Tacos al Pastor
Rating: Unrated
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"Tacos, whiskey, hillbilly music"—that's the promise of Chicago's Big Star, famed chef Paul Kahan's new project with Donnie Madia and mixologist Michael Rubel of Violet Hour. Though they call the place a dive (it's not), the classic tacos—like the exceptional grilled pork one here—are impressively fresh. And there's a take-out window. More Tasty Tacos
Paul Kahan serves dishes like spicy pork rinds at his Chicago restaurant, The Publican, but he was game to create a healthy alternative. His idea: a focaccia made with spelt flour, which is high in protein and gives the bread an appealingly hearty texture. Instead of using an excessive amount of cheese or meat, he tops the focaccia with tangy marinated kale, soft and sweet slices of winter squash and a few shavings of nutty, salty pecorino cheese. Restaurant Coverage from F&W Editors  Great Italian Recipes
"Soft-shell crabs were one of the first things I tasted as a young cook that completely flipped me out," says Paul Kahan. "I couldn't get enough of them." He confesses to going through a phase of stealing one claw from every order of three crabs that he cooked. More Seafood Recipes
Chef Way: At Chicago's Blackbird restaurant, chef Paul Kahan cooks his delectable burgers sous vide before grilling them. He also makes his own American cheese.Easy Way: Here, the burgers are just grilled and topped with deli-bought cheese.More Favorite Burger Recipes
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Paul Kahan loves the intense flavor of oysters, and like most chefs, he adores anything fried. Here he serves the crunchy oysters with a creamy raita-like cucumber mixture. More Seafood Recipes
When Paul Kahan develops recipes, he starts with something traditional—like leeks vinaigrette, the time-honored French dish—then adds a twist. Here he substitutes fried eggs for the standard hard-boiled-egg topping and adds crisp strips of speck, a smoked prosciutto. More Recipes With Leeks
Paul Kahan loves the intense flavor of oysters, and like most chefs, he adores anything fried. Here he serves the crunchy oysters with a creamy raita-like cucumber mixture. More Seafood Recipes
When Paul Kahan develops recipes, he starts with something traditional—like leeks vinaigrette, the time-honored French dish—then adds a twist. Here he substitutes fried eggs for the standard hard-boiled-egg topping and adds crisp strips of speck, a smoked prosciutto. More Recipes With Leeks
Unless you can catch the lake trout yourself, you will probably have to make the recipe with salmon, which works just as well.Plus: More Seafood Recipes and Tips
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Homemade ricotta cheese is completely delicious and unbelievably easy to prepare—all it takes is milk, lemon juice and a little heat. Chef Paul Kahan spreads it on crostini, then adds a few slices of pretty red radish and a sprinkling of pepper. More Bruschetta and Crostini Recipes
Chef Paul Kahan of The Publican in Chicago has a great trick for heightening the flavor of duck breasts: He ages them on the bone in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Boneless duck breasts can be aged using the same method, although the results won't be as dramatic; if you're short on time, use unaged duck. More Duck Recipes
This recipe was inspired by a grits dish made by Paul Virant, who worked in Blackbird's kitchen before becoming chef at Vie in Western Springs, a Chicago suburb. "Grits aren't necessarily part of my cooking—polenta would be more traditional. But the texture of these white grits blew me away," he says. More Recipes with Mushrooms
Making these pancakes with frozen corn kernels seems appropriate on an ice-fishing expedition, but by all means use fresh corn in summer. More Brunch Recipes
Paul Kahan is a big fan of chicken thighs because they have so much flavor and are so inexpensive—the best of both worlds. He braises the thighs in beer to make an excellent spring stew that he (naturally) pairs with more beer, such as Pere Jacques from Chicago's Goose Island Beer Company, a Belgian-style ale full of caramelized malt flavors. More Hearty Stews