Chicago Chef Who Stole the Secrets
May 26, 2010 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Which Chicago bars have cocktail menus curated by mixologists who used to work at The Violet Hour? Which Chicago restaurants have head chefs who are veterans of Rick Bayless' Frontera empire?

I really enjoy tracking a prominent establishment's influence throughout local food culture. With The Violet Hour, Toby Maloney has helped usher in a whole new cocktail culture focused on updated classics, homemade juices/bitters/syrups, and never letting the word "bomb" cross your lips in a drinking establishment. Rick Bayless has almost created the market for haute Mexican cuisine single-handedly; I'm from Southern California and before I came to Chicago I was only familiar with bland standards in huge portions made for Americans or cheap street food made for Mexicans.

Other restaurants have famously stolen TVH bartenders for their training and experience, and many Frontera chefs have gone on to open their own restaurants. I'm trying to figure out where all these bars and restaurants are. Examples:

Michael Rubel of The Violet Hour went across the street to develop the cocktail menu for Big Star

Mike Ryan of The Violet Hour is now head bartender at Sable

Chuy Valencia was a sous chef at Frontera Grill and Topolobampo before he opened Chilam Balam
posted by Juliet Banana to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

"cheap street food made for Mexicans"

posted by mike_bling at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2010

Response by poster: I'm sorry if I offended you with a poor choice of words, Mike. I'm Mexican. I was comparing the food at Mexican restaurants that mostly cater to Mexicans and Mexican restaurants that cater to Americans. Kind of like how if you go into Chinatown you see items on menus that you would never see at Panda Express.

Again, awkward, apologies.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:03 PM on May 26, 2010

Raul Arreola of Mixteco Grill (Montrose & Ashland) worked at Topolobampo. Place is delicious.
posted by evisceratordeath at 5:16 PM on May 26, 2010

Chef Raul Arreola previously worked at Topolobampo and recently opened the packed, wonderful, moleriffic Mixteco Grill around the corner from me. That's right. Moleriffic.
posted by centerweight at 5:17 PM on May 26, 2010

Ira Koplowitz worked as a bartender and a manager the Violet Hour for two years, before leaving Chicago for Milwaukee and founding Bittercube.

And don't forget that Toby has years of experience in the service industry outside of Chicago: Colorado, San Francisco, and New York. Toby was the first head bartender at Milk & Honey (Sasha Petraske), in New York, and spent some time behind the bar at Pegu Club (Audrey Saunders), Flatiron Lounge (Julie Reiner) and Freemans, all in NYC.
posted by kathryn at 8:06 PM on May 26, 2010

You'll be able to get some of this information from though I don't know how complete the data is for Chicago. Look up the restaurants you're interested in and see what staff they had, click on those names, see where they are now, etc.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 PM on May 26, 2010

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