The last time we saw Rene DeLeon he was in the kitchen at Next squeezing juices out of a pheasant. It turns out that he wasn’t far then from making a major career shift, trading the exotic, concept-changing world of a sous chef at Next for a position as the executive chef of Billy Lawless’s latest spot in West Town in the former Orange space on Grand. The restaurant still doesn’t have a name, but both Eater and Dish chatted with him last week and found out more about what it’s about. Which is, apparently, not dehydrating chickens.
“I didn’t waste my time in six-and-a-half-years at Alinea and Next,” he says. “I’m not going to take fried chicken and puree it and dehydrate it, but I’m going to cook that chicken as perfectly as I can.”
I understand how good chicken à la king can be if you make it properly. It’s not as though you have to sous vide something, and then purée it, and then mix it with a modified starch, spread it into a sheet and dehydrate it, and then that you actually fry.
Okay, we know what he means— he wants to take his cooking back to being more real, but with the precision that training at Alinea and Next gives you. And considering what previous Alinea vets have done with chickens— like Andrew Brochu and his confit chicken thighs at Kith & Kin— DeLeon’s idea of precise comfort food should be something to look forward to. (As soon as they come up with a name for the place.) Both pieces have good background on DeLeon’s path to Alinea and beyond, especially Chicago’s account of him arriving in Chicago with a suitcase and $18, determined to work at the kind of place he saw in The French Laundry Cookbook; check ‘em out.