Chef Kendal Duque left Sepia six months ago to pursue an enigmatic “personal project.” While that’s still underway, in the meantime Duque has found a home as the consulting chef at the soon-to-open Cuna Supper Club, a loungey small-plates-and-fancy-cocktails restaurant that’s aiming to bring a bit of a swank vibe up to Lakeview. We caught up with Duque for the scoop: “We’re trying to offer the neighborhood something they don’t have to go downtown for,” he said. But how about the food?
“The style of the food will have a cohesiveness,” Duque told us. “It’ll be contemporary American in spirit, kind of like what i did at Sepia, but with a little bit more international flair.” Cuna’s owners are a well-traveled family with Filipino roots, and Duque explained that they wanted the menu to draw on their global experience. So the menu jumps all over the map, integrating flavors like sweet-and-sour eggplant with a Mediterranean pine nut kick, or a rustic flatbread topped with braised lamb shoulder.
Duque’s also committed to keeping the kitchen seasonal (the menu on the restaurant’s website is an outdated summer sample), and plans on staving off the winter chill with dishes like whole wheat pasta with smoked duck, braised pork cheeks, and — one of his favorites — a sandwich made from “long-smoked pork belly, that we’ll then braise in the oven for five or six hours hours. Then we pull the meat so it’s almost like pulled pork, but it’ll be the belly meat.” When he tried out the sandwiches at a recent dinner party, they brought down the house.
As for Duque’s role as a consulting chef, don’t let the title mislead you: he didn’t just develop the menu, he’ll actually be there in the kitchen. Duque promises that “I will be here on a daily basis, training everyone, making sure that the menu that we’ve established is executed properly, and I’ll be cooking on the line probably every night.” That is, until that mysterious personal project gets closer to completion: “Once I get closer to opening my place I’ll phase myself out of here,” he says, but for now that timeline is murky — and the restaurant intriguing: “The work for my personal project is totally done, investors and everyone all lined up, but I’m looking for a property. It has to be a particular location because I have a very particular restaurant in mind that I want to do.”
Cuna Supper Club, opening late November. 1113 W. Belmont Ave., 312 224 8588