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Chef Speak: Grant Slauterbeck
Executive Chef, The Iron Horse Hotel

Photos by Dan Bishop

July 2013

Grant Slauterbeck was named executive chef of the No. 1-rated hotel in Wisconsin in April and in three weeksí time he created the hotelís summer menu, living up to his "inventive" reputation with such dishes as Foie Gras Popcorn Balls and a deconstructed tuna sandwich with quail eggs.

The Detroit native has spent 12 years working in Chicago, at establishments such as One North Kitchen and Bar, Glenview House and D.O.C. Wine Bar. He currently commutes from his home in Old Irving Park on Chicagoís northwest side.

What are your inspirations?

I spent many years of my life cooking serious food, classic French food. My focus is more on the social aspect of food, the shared experience. I want to make the plates part of the experience. I want to get rid of the course mentality.

How will the hotel environment ó the motorcycle vibe ó influence The Iron Horse menu?

I donít think the food directly translates to the theme of the hotel just yet. It matches conceptually between The Yard and Smyth. The next menu will begin to tie those two together and also the rest of the hotel. Iíve got it written about four times already.

How have your previous kitchen experiences prepared you for this role?

The idea of a hotel is new to me, but I had volume on this level. Cooking on this level is certainly not new to me.

Has there been a mentor who has influenced you?

Steve Chiappetti was the second chef I came in contact with when I came to Chicago. He took a real interest in me. I worked for him for almost six years at a couple of his restaurants. He is one of the most passionate people about food I ever met. He definitely had the biggest hand in me becoming the chef I am today.

Has he been to The Iron Horse Hotel yet?

No, not yet. He just opened J. Rocco Italian Table and Bar a few weeks ago so heís been kind of busy.

What is your go-to comfort food?

Believe it or not, pretty much every night of my life I have a turkey sandwich when I get home from work. Deli turkey or deli chicken. When my wife and I are sitting around and want to go out, we go real old school Italian. Itís not cutting edge by any stretch. The menu is like 80 pages long, but I always order angel hair and meatballs.

What are some of the dishes you are most excited about on the Iron Horse summer menu?

The Chicken Wings and Housemade Doughnuts for sure. They have been very well-received by the guests. Weíre also doing flatbreads. They traditionally only had pizzas here, but I decided to do flatbreads instead. The components of the dish are more important than the cheese and the sauce. Iím excited about all of it.

What did you mean when you said you "push the levels of classic cuisine by contorting our original thoughts with sensible and unique ideas?"

Iím trying to take the classic things I was taught in my French cooking upbringing and make the food more approachable for everyday guests. My menu is (intentionally) vague. On the menu itís just Pork and Beans. I do that so I can do things that I know are cool and flavorful without confusing the guests.

You are in Milwaukee by way of Chicago and Detroit. Iím guessing youíre not a Packers fan.

Not really. Iím a Chicago sports fan unless they are playing Detroit teams.


This story ran in the July 2013 issue of: