Dining: Curtis Duffy talks about his new restaurant
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.
Chef Duffy photographed during Ever restaurant construction.