Mercat a la Planxa
638 South Michagan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605
November 9, 2011
$175 per person inclusive
use promo code SAGE
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HOST VENUE - Mercat a la Planxa
Mercat a la Planxa, a modern Catalan tapas restaurant and bar located adjacent to the historic Blackstone Hotel, was introduced in early 2008 by restaurateur Peter Karpinski of the Denver-based Sage Restaurant Group and highly acclaimed Executive Chef Jose Garces. Mercat's menu features meats and seafood served a la planxa or on the grill, all inspired by Barcelona and Spain's Catalan region. The bar offers Spanish-style cocktails and martinis, as well as an extensive collection of Spanish cavas, wines, sangrias and beer. Chef de Cuisine Cory Morris oversees Mercat a la Planxa's day-to-day operations.
Mercat a la Planxa is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as for brunch on Sunday. Mercat is open Sunday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling 312.765.0524. For photos, menus and more, please visit Mercat a la Planxa at www.mercatchicago.com.
GUEST CELEBRITY CHEF Dirk Flanigan
RESTAURANT The Gage, Chicago IL
Flanigan is a classically trained chef who began his career in a pretty classic way, washing dishes to save up for a summer spent surfing in his South Florida hometown. He bypassed culinary school in favor of working his way up the line, and on the way, passed through the kitchens of the Ritz Carlton and La Tour and eventually took over as executive chef at Meritage. There, the creativity and soul in his cooking garnered three stars from Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune. His career took flight, and in 2007, Flanigan opened The Gage: a boisterous and sleek gastropub and culinary anchor to Millennium Park which is one of the most successful restaurants in the state. At his elegantly styled Henri, opened next door to The Gage in 2010, Flanigan serves nimble, modern interpretations of classic French dishes with his special brand of haute rusticity. A further expression of Flanigan's one-of-a-kind voice, Henri has already garnered three stars from the Tribune, the Chicago-Sun Times, and Time Out Chicago, proving the chef as much a critical success as a neighborhood champion. During 2011, Chef Flanigan was honored with a James Beard nomination and as a Starchefs Rising Star Chef.
GUEST CELEBRITY CHEF Jonathan Beatty
RESTAURANT Davanti Enoteca, Chicago IL
Jonathan Beatty is the Corporate Chef of Davanti Enoteca. He joined the family of Francesca's Restaurants & Restaurateur Scott Harris in 2009 as the opening Sous-Chef at the award winning Purple Pig restaurant on Michigan Avenue. With his proven success & creative culinary talent, Harris brought Chef Beatty up through the ranks to open Davanti Enoteca in September 2010. Soon after it's opening, Time Out Chicago named Davanti Enoteca "Best New Italian Restaurant" and Chef Beatty was named "Best New Chef" by Chicago Magazine.
Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Chef Beatty discovered his passion for cooking at an early age from his mother who he describes as one of his culinary mentors. As a young student, he spent a year working in kitchens in Florence and Siena, Italy. It is there that Beatty learned a great appreciation for how Italians treat food, with respect and simplicity.
Beatty has had a colorful seven year career attending the renowned French Culinary Institute in New York City and gaining Italian influences as a chef apprentice at New York City's well known Felidia's and Esca restaurants.
Jonathan Beatty's enthusiasm for the freshest seasonal ingredients is one of the many views he shares with the family of Francesca's Restaurants. He describes Davanti Enoteca as one of his greatest culinary accomplishments to date.
HOST CELEBRITY CHEF Cory Morris
RESTAURANT Mercat a la Planxa, Chicago
Chef Morris was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and showed an interest in cooking from a very young age. Growing up, his earliest culinary memories were cooking dinner for his siblings so they could avoid store bought, pre-packaged meals while his parents we busy working. Chef Morris began his culinary career in 2000 as an assistant to the chef at the fine dining restaurant Mariposa in Park City, Utah. In 2004, Morris was appointed executive chef of Red Rock Grille, and later as chef of The Club at Spanish Peak in Big Sky, Montana, where he created seasonal menus and utilized local, organic ingredients. Morris eventually moved to Chicago, where he was named sous chef at Mercat a la Planxa when it opened in early 2008 under the direction of Executive Chef Jose Garces and Chef de Cuisine Michael Fiorello. Now, as chef de cuisine, Morris enjoys adding a modern spin to Catalan classics. Chef Morris's approach to food is derived from his travels through Spain, France, and the United States, as well as the industry luminaries he has worked alongside, including chefs Jose Garces and Joyce Goldstein. He believes that food is meant not only for consumption but to excite the palate and create memories. In his spare time, Chef Morris enjoys cycling and exploring different cultures through Chicago's diverse neighborhoods and their food.
PASTRY CHEF Ben Roche
RESTAURANT Moto, Chicago
As a young boy growing up in Beaufort, South Carolina, Ben Roche did the kinds of things boys that age do – make "volcanoes" and create Alka Seltzer "bombs" in his best friend's kitchen. But for Roche, those early scientific experiments were more than a passing childhood fascination; rather they laid the foundation for a career as one of this country's most innovative pastry chefs. As Executive Pastry Chef for Moto, Roche's kitchen has the usual ingredients one might expect to find, but also houses tanks of liquid nitrogen, helium and nitrogen gas, items more frequently seen in a lab than in a kitchen.
Worlds away from Moto, Roche's first kitchen experience was as a dishwasher in high school. While at work, he could often be found watching the chemical reactions taking place in the baking process and Roche realized he was hooked. After graduation, he enrolled in the Baking & Pastry program at Johnson & Wales University (Rhode Island, 2000) and worked nights at Pastiche, an upscale dessert bar and café in Providence. After 18 months, he left to fulfill his school externship in Hook, England at Tylney Hall, a boutique hotel just outside London. Roche returned to the States in 2002 to join the culinary team at Ouisie's Table, one of Houston's most esteemed restaurants. Six months later, Roche was offered a position as baker at the world-renowned Charlie Trotter's, where he elevated his skills and was exposed to the highest level of cooking and artistry – and also where he met Homaru Cantu. The two science-minded chefs connected immediately, and when Cantu had a pastry position open up at his recently opened Moto, his first call was to Roche. After just four months, Roche was elevated to the Executive Pastry Chef position.
Now side-by-side in the kitchen at Moto, Roche and Cantu inspire, collaborate and support one another to bring their forward-thinking ideas to fruition. Known to use a class IV laser, cutting edge technologies, and liquid nitrogen to create intensely aromatic food and drinks and thought-provoking dish concepts, Roche's only concern is having too many ideas to present at one time. "Working in the kitchen at Moto is all about a new way of thinking. Our flavor combinations might seem familiar at first but many of the traditional principles of a dish are stripped away, leaving the diner to experience delicious mental stimulation and surprise," states Roche. New dessert experiences like No Smoking in Chicago and Chili Cheese Nachos are good examples of his culinary philosophy brought to the plate.
The sought after pastry chef has shared the stage with many distinguished innovators and food specialists and his talent as a pastry chef has caught the attention of consumers and critics around the world. He has appeared on Dinner Rush and Dinner Impossible, both on The Food Network, as well as on Iron Chef America and Roche has presented at the global gastronomic forum Madrid Fusion, Stanford University's Design School, Poptech!, Taste3 and many other events. It's fitting that the young, curious boy experimenting in his friend's kitchen now creates some of the most technically innovative and "explosive" desserts
MIXOLOGIST Mike Ryan
HEAD BARTENDER at Sable Kitchen & Bar
As head bartender at Sable Kitchen & Bar, Mike Ryan brings his signature culinary flair to the craft cocktail movement. The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago graduate, former Moto sous chef and self-described “shot and a beer guy” became accidentally enamored with bartending while working as a cook at Fulton Market molecular gastronomy restaurant Moto between 2005 and 2008 “He [owner Homaro Cantu] wanted a cook behind the bar,” remembers Ryan. “I was literally looking up recipes in a book.” Soon, Ryan became interested in the possibilities presented by unusual spirits, classic mixes and new flavor profiles.
Ryan grew up outside Philadelphia in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and moved to Chicago in 2001 to attend culinary school, and, while working at Otom and Moto, began spending his free time at Wicker Park’s The Violet Hour. “I was trying all the classics, reading up on the history,” Ryan remembers. In 2008, he was asked to join The Violet Hour team.
“My mentor is [Violet Hour head bartender] Mike Rubel,” says Ryan. “He’s incredibly knowledgeable about spirits and their history.” Ryan spent his time at The Violet Hour “banging out drinks, tasting, learning, really understanding the relationships between sweet, sour, bitter and booze.” At the same time, he continued to hone his hospitality skills. “How great is it when you can give somebody exactly what they’re looking for, even if they don’t know exactly what they want?”
Ryan’s behind-the-bar plan for Sable is to leave guests feeling both at home and constantly engaged. As far as mixology goes, he says, “I’m a fan of bright, loud, vibrant flavors. I like to use egregious amounts of bitters, bold whiskies and try cool savory ingredients while utilizing my kitchen background. Ryan wouldn’t have left The Violet Hour for an opportunity any less promising, he says. “Being in charge at Sable gives me the chance to explore some thoughts I have about cocktails, and chase down a few philosophical ideas about bartending.” Under Ryan’s leadership, the Sable bar houses one of the largest selections of brown spirits in the city.
An Albany Park resident, Ryan was named Chicago magazine’s “Best New Bartender” in May 2011. Under Ryan’s direction, Sable was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Bars in America” (April 2011) and received Time Out Chicago’s 2011 Eat Out Award for “Best New Beverage Program”. Ryan was a 2009 scholarship recipient in the Cocktail Apprentice program at New Orleans’ annual Tales of the Cocktail, a high-profile industry convention. He has been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Whiskey magazine.