Chef Graham Elliot Bowles on Bringing the Ruckus

"People will come in and all of a sudden the seats are rearranged, and the lights are all different colors, and we're doing new menus," he said. "Then two weeks later, everyone gets comfortable with that, and it's like, 'No, now we're going to do this and switch this around.'" Bowles gave the example of how when he first opened the restaurant, the vibe was very laidback in the kitchen: music blared and the staff wore t-shirts to work. "Now there's no music and everyone's wearing chef coats this week, just because I want to try it out. Let's see if it changes the way everyone feels about what they do. In two months, we might go back," he said, and he admitted how frustrating these changes could be for his staff. "I always think if it's not broken, break it. How do we keep forcing change and staying on top of things?" he said.

"It might make sense to have a set menu of dishes that people love," he said. "But here it's like 'that was successful, we've got to get rid of it now and try something new.'

He added, "I do take pity on some of the people that have to work with me."

Bowles said that when it comes to the food served at the Graham Elliot, anything is possible. "It's a blend of the places that I've been, as well as the places that everyone on the team has been, because it's a collegial approach to cooking," he said. "Everyone is of equal importance, everybody contributes something."

Bowles said he believes in giving the best product possible to the guest, even if it means bucking the growing trend of eating locally-grown foods. "Especially in Chicago, we don't have this incredible growing season," he said. " I would love to do a restaurant that simply served product from my own farm. I think that would be amazing, but that's just not the case."

Having his own restaurant also gives Bowles an outlet for his other creative passion – music. "I actually record some of my own guitar playing, and we play it here in the dining room," he said. His passion for music made him a natural choice to be the Culinary Ambassador for the 2009 Lollapalooza, a three-day music festival held annually in Chicago. Bowles will return in the role this August, where he provides the cuisine for both the public as well as backstage for the performers.

"I am the happiest I've ever been now: incredible family life, I have a son on the way, just moved into a new place, we're opening a second restaurant, we're doing Lollapalooza, I have a TV show coming ,trying to start a band," he said. "There's just nothing but positive energy going forward."

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