Din­ing: Cur­tis Duffy talks about his new res­tau­rant

Chicago Sun-Times - - TASTE - BY MIRIAM DI NUNZIO, STAFF RE­PORTER md­i­n­un­zio@sun­times.com | @Miri­amDiNun­zio

Cur­tis Duffy talks ex­cit­edly about his new res­tau­rant, the highly an­tic­i­pated Ever, in the West Loop, call­ing it a dream he’s had for many years.

“It’s al­ways been the am­bi­tion to do a sec­ond res­tau­rant and a third and fourth res­tau­rant, to de­velop a small res­tau­rant em­pire,” Duffy, a three Miche­lin-starred chef, and the for­mer top toque at the now-shut­tered Grace. “To have a hand­ful of restau­rants that are chef-driven, with dif­fer­ent styles of cui­sine. So it re­ally wasn’t in the works when I was at Grace but it was al­ways in my head.”

About the clo­sure of Grace, Duffy offers suc­cinctly: “It was just time to move on. … Things just didn’t work out col­lec­tively.”

For now (due to the con­straints of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic), Ever will fea­ture one $285 sea­sonal tast­ing menu, re­flec­tive of Duffy’s culi­nary artistry, and some “sur­prises” along the way, he teases.

“You have to buy the ticket to ride the roller­coaster,” Duffy says, chuck­ling.

The sin­gle tast­ing menu will, how­ever, en­com­pass a broad range of fare.

“Peo­ple who know me from Grace know my vegetable menu is very im­por­tant to me, but un­for­tu­nately the times we’re in we de­cided to do one menu. We will have seafood, land an­i­mals, a lot of veg­eta­bles through­out the menu. So there’s huge diver­sity through­out the menu. It’s not one or the other. Even­tu­ally we’ll get to the point where we are go­ing to im­ple­ment a sec­ond menu that’s all vegetable-driven.”

Ingredient­s will be sourced lo­cally (Ohio,

Michi­gan, Wis­con­sin as well as Illi­nois farmer/grow­ers and oth­ers) as much as pos­si­ble.

“We’re al­ways in con­ver­sa­tion with farmers and fish­mon­gers and peo­ple pro­vid­ing our prod­uct,” Duffy con­tin­ues. “What’s com­ing out of the ground? What are they fishing? It dic­tates re­ally how we change our menu.”

A part­ner­ship with Duffy’s long­time busi­ness as­so­ciate and good friend Michael Muser, Ever boasts a team that in­cludes pas­try chef Ge­orge Ko­vach, sous chef Richard “Richie” Fa­rina, chef de cui­sine Justin Selk and gen­eral man­ager Amy Cordell.

The res­tau­rant’s con­cept, Duffy says, is born of his evo­lu­tion as a chef. “It’s an ex­ten­sion of who I am and the style of food that I’ve been do­ing for many, many years. I cer­tainly don’t want to pi­geon­hole my­self into a place where I’m do­ing a cer­tain type of cui­sine. I’m not known for do­ing French cui­sine or Chi­nese cui­sine. For me I’ve al­ways called it a per­son­al­ity cui­sine, a cui­sine with pur­pose. It’s in­gre­di­ent-driven, first and fore­most sea­sonal, and that’s the path I’m go­ing to con­tinue to go down.”

The Ever din­ing room fea­tures 15 ta­bles (in­clud­ing a pri­vate din­ing room ta­ble), which lends it­self to so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

“We’ve had to make some ad­just­ments. But for our style of din­ing, al­ready we have lim­ited seats,” Duffy says. “The ta­bles are al­ready spa­ciously placed, far enough away. We try to give each ta­ble its own res­tau­rant, if you will. So you’re not over­hear­ing con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple you’re sit­ting next to. That was al­ready in our de­sign. … En­sur­ing our guests are safe. We’re lim­it­ing the amount of staff we’re hir­ing. We’re lim­it­ing the amount of reser­va­tions we’re able to take, and we are lim­it­ing to one menu. We want to en­sure every­one feels com­fort­able, in­clud­ing our staff work­ing there and serv­ing our guests.

Reser­va­tions must be made on­line, and the res­tau­rant is nearly sold out through Septem­ber. There is no carry-out avail­able, though that may change, Duffy says.

While the $285 price tag might seem daunt­ing, this type of res­tau­rant ex­pe­ri­ence has been see­ing an up­swing with din­ers in re­cent years.

“My take has al­ways been peo­ple love to be taken care of,” Duffy says of the con­cept. “Peo­ple love to come to a place and not have to make de­ci­sions . ... Why not got to a place that you can sit and en­joy and not have to make any de­ci­sions and just let us take care of you? That’s what tast­ing menu and high­end restau­rants re­ally fo­cus on.”

Ever, 1340 W. Ful­ton, is open 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tues­day through Satur­days. Reser­va­tions through the end of Septem­ber can be made on­line at ever-res­tau­rant.com. The next set of on­line reser­va­tions (for Oc­to­ber dates) will be avail­able start­ing at 9 a.m. Aug. 4.

MICHAEL MUSER

Chef Duffy pho­tographed dur­ing Ever res­tau­rant con­struc­tion.

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