Chef Louis

In 1962, The Bakery Restaurant was opened in Chicago by the great Chef, Louis Szathmary. In 1980, one of my dearest friends and former classmate, Don, got a job in Chef Louis' kitchen. It was a job. A job so that he could pursue his photography career. Don ended up being Chef Louis' "night shift" Chef. No fancy names, like Sous Chef, or Chef de Cuisine; just the "Night Cook."

That is how Don, for the most part, views the world and the kitchen. Nothing fancy, just plain cooking. But, what amazing dishes he creates! The subtleties that exude from within one of his dishes are exquisite. It is the "personality" that comes through his hands that makes every meal a treat.

I was reminded of this when, on a recent trip to Chicago to meet with my friend Marc about a company there, we got to talking about food. Marc loves food, and he brought up how he missed The Bakery as a great place to have dinner. I casually mentioned that my friend, Don, used to be the cook there. From then on the trip was about meeting Don.

I mentioned to Don about the tomato soup - a dish Marc remembered fondly from so long ago. Don chuckled and said there was nothing special in the soup - just a combination of canned tomato juice and paste. Of course, that is not really true. That's that humble stuff I mentioned. Don suggested he make us dinner, including the tomato soup that Marc was pining over.

The soup was perfect, just as Marc remembered. And, the Spaetzle and Goulash was just as Louie would have made it. But, our favorite dish that night was the chicken livers - a recipe Don made up on the spot! We were licking the plates clean of the sauce!

It is Don's hands that make the difference. His years with Chef Louis yelling at him, and the ability to feel the food as he makes it, creates the personality of the dish.

Like all good dinners, the conversation is inspired by the food, and, in some ways, vice versa - the conversation leads to more food...

Don made a comment to me that we prefer foods that are simple and stand on their own. It is true, we do like a product to sing on its own - with like the core of the item to be the vocal cord that carries the product. It takes people like Don to blend the products that we find into a harmony of notes that blend together to make a beautiful choir.

Once in a while, a great song appears and it strikes a certain chord and makes you realize that the God of music has blessed this song. I think that also happens in food. Whether it is the recipe or the hands that make a dish, sometimes all the elements come together to make a divine dish. Whether it is at a fancy dancy restaurant, or at a family gathering, when all the parts come together it can be, single handedly, one of the best memories you will ever have. Every sense is firing and the joy one feels is complete. I love good food!

We include four recipes below from Chef Louis' cookbook. It is important to note that, as Don told us, Chef Louis came from the service industry, and the tomato soup consists of opening a bunch of cans and mixing them together - along with some dried herbs and spices. And as much as we, at, like to believe it is all about the ingredients, sometimes it's not. Great cooking is about people, and what amazing things you can create from scratch.

To see a few pictures from dinner with Don and Marc, 

And the recipes here.