What'd you say. Two-four?
This is soup scallop, he wanted the veg.
[Curtis] It's frustrating, but it's been frustrating for three years.
My most comfort zone is in the kitchen, of course.
Do I like this kitchen? No, I hate it. But...
The space, it's a big limiting factor.
'Cause if the space was bigger,
we could certainly expand on our food that we want to expand on.
We can't push forward without the extra hands.
And we're very short-staffed in the front house, too.
We haven't had a manager in six months.
And Michael's our expediter.
He should be up-selling all of our wine right now.
He should be making the restaurant money. But what's he doing?
He's forced to stand there and expedite for us
because we don't have an expediter.
'Cause they're not going to hire it. They won't hire.
They want more, but they don't want to give more.
We're still a restaurant that has six coffee cups,
that's it, you know, we're still a restaurant
that doesn't have the ample amount of silverware
to feed our patrons every night.
Now, you walk out of here, you're paying over $200 a person
We better damn well be giving that to them.
We're looking at 5,500 square feet, up top,
um, which we'll use all for the restaurant, kitchen, storage.
After looking at 80 to 100 different spaces in Chicago,
obviously it was exhausting.
It suits what we wanted to do,
and the location just kept getting better and better
with pre-existing restaurants that are our neighbors now.
It's just... This row of Randolph is just gonna be unique.
I mean, we get one shot to make a great restaurant.
So we have to put 150% into this space
from now until the day we open,
and then, we even have to do even more.
Because once the doors open, it's even more important.
[camera man] You want this to be the best restaurant in Chicago?
I want it to be the best restaurant in the country.
We know we can do it. I think we have...
We have a lot of the key people.
We have the talent, we have the know-how,
You know, a lot of sleepless nights
thinking about... what's gonna happen.
How am I gonna get this done? There's a lot of...
There's a list of a million things
that need to get accomplished in the next eight months.
[camera man] How confident that you'll meet that point?
Not confident at all. [laughs]
I mean, I say, if we say eight months,
I think we'll hit maybe the eight and a half, nine-month mark.
And that comes off right away.
I mean, one of the things that I remember about him is...
he has an impression about him.
He's fit, he exercises, he lifts weights, he runs.
His hair is always clean cut.
Everything about him gives that persona
Meticulous, and detail oriented,
Well, his reputation is brilliant.
I mean, I've eaten his food many, many times
and he's just such a huge force to be reckoned with,
as far as his talent goes.
His food is very thoughtful, it's thought out. It's very...
incredible concentration of flavors.
And the look is beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful look.
He has a sensuality with food and a touch that...
He has a way with people that's...
You know, I think that naturally he's calm.
He's a natural teacher, he's a very good teacher.
No matter what. Under the most pressure.
"We're going to get it done. Don't worry, chef.
Like, that's very rare in the cooking world.
[Curtis] I think you'd be foolish not to be scared of failing.
It's like Mike Tyson, you know.
Like he's scared to death to step in that ring
because he doesn't wanna lose.
It's the same thing for me.
I'm putting everything on the line.
I have 16 employees that depend on what we do on a daily basis,
on the choices that we make.
That's a huge burden to have on your shoulders.
When I first took the job at Avenues,
and I just read his last name, I said,
This is gonna be some French fuck.
Goddamn, some stuffy French guy that I'd have to work with."
That's all I could think about. And I'm like,
"Oh, this is gonna suck." [laughs]
So... But it was completely opposite, so...
Even when we're not getting along,
and we're on opposite ends of the spectrum,
I still love the guy, you know what I mean?
I think that's when you know you got something good.
And we've reached a point where we can definitely go there
and there's no topics that are off the line.
[Curtis] We have a lot of same interests.
You know, wine, and food, and motorcycles, and girls, and...
-Well I like girls, he... -[laughs]
[camera man] You moved to Chicago in 2000 to work for Charlie Trotter.
What do you think of your old boss?
[Curtis] Cooking at his level like that, Charlie Trotter, come on.
I mean, you can't say anything bad about the guy.
He's been doing what he's been doing for 20 years.
If I'm doing what he's doing in 25 years...
Curtis had a great training ground
in the sense that Charlie Trotter was known before, almost, anyone else
for just getting the most unusual, exotic,
specialized, precious ingredients.
And so, there was really the sense of
the ingredient was very, very important.
And that was well before farm-to-table
became something that every gastro-pub did, right.
Alinea also had wonderfully sourced ingredients.
But there also was a high degree of, sort of, manipulation to 'em.
Like what can you do creatively?
What can we do with foie gras other than serve it as foie gras?
What can we dehydrate or make into a powder
or make into some other thing
that's gonna surprise you, you know, when you bite into it.
What Curtis Duffy has done since then...
His personality is not to be, you know, sort of science-y
for the sake of science-y.
Whereas Curtis' stuff tended to be plated fairly traditionally,
as opposed to using a lot of unique, crazy service-ware,
but he also still brought that creativity to it.
How can I make these ingredients sing
maybe in a way that they haven't sung for anyone else.
[Michael] We gotta hustle, we gotta hustle. I'm gonna read this real quick.
Uh, five o' clock, we got a deuce for table 25.
FMB, professional SVP, US chairman
Calorie Control Council. Wow.
And this is on Courtney's request to be here tonight.
She just wants to wish chef well on his new venture.
And Tom and Courtney are obviously people we want to keep close to our sides, so...
Nine o' clock, a deuce at table 44.
"We would love a window table, if possible.
Looking forward to dining for the last time
with Chef Curtis at Avenues.
No avocados here. The guest is a lawyer.
They enjoy sparkling water.
The attorney's office is on Wacker Drive.
He attended Ohio State University in 1988.
[woman] They've been here a lot.
-[Michael] Pumped up. -[Curtis] Ten times.
Any questions about any of the resos?
[Curtis] Pretty awesome. Last service, right.
I've walked away from a lot of restaurants through my career.
Hopefully the last one that I close.
It's gonna be hard, sorry.
We achieved a lot of great things in this restaurant.
I don't know. I'm speechless, to be honest with you.
I've written down couple of pages of stuff,
but, you know, I speak from my heart from this, but I'd rather speak to you
without having to read stuff that I've written, so...
It hasn't been the most restful week, for sure.
It's been a lot of sleepless nights, lot of laying in bed,
just lot of thoughts going through my head.
You're constantly around these people for 12-plus hours a day.
These people that you grow to know,
you become intimate with them,
you're with them all the time,
you know, even more so than your families.
It's like ending a relationship,
you know, you put all the energy and effort into it,
and all of a sudden, it's gone.
[Curtis] You know, we look back at the style of food
that we put out every single day,
and what it means, about that definition.
and graciousness that we offer to our guests,
and extend to our guests.
It's all about that one word. "Grace."
-See you in a bit. -All right.
-See you guys down there, yeah? -Yep.
Do you need the keys? I don't need keys anymore.
-See you, chef. -Good night.
-Take care of yourself. -Yeah, I will.
-Good night, see you. -See you!
'cause I'm gonna read these dimensions out to...
The boys are kicking ass, Mike.
They already have a 3D rendering of this space.
We're looking at, for as far as workable space goes,
the actual square footage we're working at 4,400.
This is our first official meeting with them after hiring them.
You know you start to get excited about the possibilities.
That's essentially why we ended up going with an empty box,
because it's essentially our canvas.
At this point, we can make it as complex,
It's definitely a marathon, for sure.
You gotta train like it is.
So, we do things on a daily basis.
We try to get a little bit done each day,
and by the end, it's obviously gonna come together.
The pressure will come once we get a schedule down, I think.
Yeah, you know, we have to start hitting deadlines
and things like that when we know that
X, Y, and Z needs to be here.
Yeah, we'll be under a little bit more pressure than we are now.
What are you doing on Thursday?
Nothing. Getting caught up on some emails and stuff like that.
I ought to check in with my wife
-'cause I haven't' seen her in three days. -[phone ringing]
Pretend like I'm still married.
Yeah, so I'm free tomorrow. What's up?
Everybody really respects him
because he's a talented chef and a great person.
And I used to work at Trotter with him for, like, two years.
So we're like, next to each other in the hot line at Trotter.
He was a great guy, just head down
and just worked really, really hard.
That's what he does right now too.
He's a chef, like two-star Michelin restaurant.
And I know he wanna, like, get his third star.
And some day he's going to get it.
This is my friend Jackie. This is Curtis.
So there's a lot of constant struggle,
physically and mentally, what happens in the kitchen.
You take a lot of baggage home.
And you sleep on it, talk about it with your spouse.
You know, me and Yvonne have this rule
when we get home, we try not to talk about work,
and be husband and wife when we come into the door.
It hardly happens. It hardly happens.
My wife asks me, like, "So, how was your day?"
"Well, it was good, you know.
And that's part of our day, I'm done talking about work.
Well, I think the low point is separating from
Moving in that direction has been difficult.
Not just me, for the girls, for her.
I think the high point for me
has been the concentration on this restaurant.
It's always... I'm finally being able to...
build the dream restaurant that I always wanted.
It just happens to be at the worst fucking time.
I am surprised that he's succeeded so well, yes.
But does it surprise me that he did succeed, no.
'Cause he's always been, you know, goal-oriented.
From all that we have went through in our lives,
whether together as a family,
or him on his own, or whatever,
the tragedy set me back a few notches.
And he was striving forward.
I don't know how he feels,
set his mind to something, he's always achieved.
What I'm showing here is...
there are a number of ways to do this.
In the same amount of space that is ten-feet-two,
we could put two Traulsen reach-in refrigerators.
[Curtis] Financial side of it is... Freaks me out a little bit.
How much we're going to spend on this restaurant
knowing that we have to financially pay back with a percentage.
So, do I want to spend $500,000 on a kitchen? No.
This size of a kitchen, yes, this is what we had to do.
You know, we can go back and change a few things,
negotiate further, but...
Two weeks, and it takes three weeks to do the bid,
it takes two weeks to go back and re-figure it out,
so now we're waiting for that.
It's just, it's a waiting game.
[Michael] Today we're basically just walking around the merchandise mart
Unfortunately because Curtis
has this obsession with this particular type of linen
that he wants to use in the dining room,
the table bases are extremely important now
because they're going to be exposed
'cause the linen's gonna be really tight. It's gonna wrap up underneath the table.
Do you feel like, if you sat at that table, chef,
your feet would get tangled up
and be banging into those legs?
You essentially have to ask yourself,
if you notice them during your experience,
Well, then we fail. 'Cause, yeah, your feet are going to hit this for sure.
You know what I mean? Thanks, D, peace out!
Planning that's aesthetically pleasing to us takes a long time to figure out.
The other thing to remember too is...
And we're not sold on this for our dining room carpet, I'm not.
[Curtis] What about that one? That's just black, right?
If you had told me three months ago
what we would end up paying for dining room chairs,
I would've said, "You're insane. There's just no way."
The reality is the world of chairs is not what I thought it was.
[chuckles] And chairs are fucking expensive, man.
[camera man] How many chairs?
[camera man] How much did you pay for them?
It's embarrassing. I mean, I dunno it's...
We paid more than what I thought we were gonna pay.
$1,000 a chair, that's a lot of money.
That's damn near $100,000 on chairs.
[Michael] Can we call SML to find out if they have our plans
and are they in that process,
and when can we expect a number from them?
'Cause if that number comes back at $350,000,
then it's going to be a process of "Take this out,
We're gonna be back at square one.
-Not at square one. -Close.
The longer that we wait, the longer our doors are closed,
we're spending money that there's no revenue coming in.
We're spending a lot of money right now.
[camera man] When do you think it's going to open now? You said "late spring."
We might as well wait till 2013.
At this point, fucking, let's not rush anything.
Let's just build brick by brick,
you know, door by door, hinge by hinge, nail by nail.
Let's do a nail a day. Let's fucking take our time.
Obviously, we're talking about opening up a restaurant.
But we've got a brand that we wanna represent.
We got a demographic, a target audience hat we want to cater to.
Um, and we've got a certain style,
and aesthetic that we really wanna present.
[Michael] The differentiation thing, for us, is that
Dennis Ray Wheaton said in Chicago Magazine when he wrote Curtis up...
Uh, he said that as Curtis comes from Charlie Trotter's,
and then he was with Grant for a long time,
and he said that Curtis is the bridge that connects the two.
That was brilliantly said, and brilliantly written.
So, he's this middle version of that.
That connects him to the Alinea thing.
The thoughtfulness, the intensity, the concentration,
the gravity of every single plate
that leaves the kitchen, fine, we're tied to that,
but the performance aspect of it, we're not.
He's still got that piece of...
classic, traditional, all-about-the- ingredients Charlie Trotter aspect to it.
Is that representing you properly?
You're not talking a lot right now.
No, it's fine. You're saying it all.
So, as much as people wanna draw connections to,
and say, "You know what I mean, he's that guy from..."
'Cause Alinea is such, this monster,
it's so hard to get out of its shadow.
watching the rise of this new and different animal.
One of the tough questions that he has to feel all the time
is why leave, why'd you leave, what was wrong?
I don't know if I'm often happy with your answer
'cause it's not always positive.
Can we package it in a way that
essentially what we had was a caged tiger before?
I'm not even joking. If you added
three more feet to the other side of this table on the width,
that's the size of the kitchen.
I mean, extraordinarily limited staffing regiment. It was...
Going into work every day with your boxing gloves on.
I needed to fight for every single...
It's that, you know... It's like...
That's how I personally feel, right.
It's like I look at him and I go,
"Dude, if you think my kid was badass before,
wait till you see him when he designs his own kitchen
and gets to play with his own toys.
And has nobody to ask or deal with.
And just spreads his wings and just starts freaking out."
That's gonna be exciting.
Charlie Trotter became this mecca for young chefs
and really has an incredible alumni list
of people running kitchens who came from his kitchen.
Curtis was one of these people who,
Charlie Trotter was very influential in these cookbooks,
you know, It just looked beautiful, sounded amazing.
Looked really difficult to make.
And this cookbook turned out to be a great recruiting tool.
Curtis Duffy read the Charlie Trotter cookbook,
and was really blown away by it.
And came up, and went to the kitchen, and said he wanted to work there.
And one of the things that amazed him
was that when he got in the kitchen,
they were actually making the stuff
that looked like the stuff in the cookbook.
And it was like, "Oh, this isn't just for show,
this isn't the showpiece for the book,
this is what they're doing every single day."
And just the level that they were making these dishes at
really kind of... It was a big defining moment, I think, for Curtis.
-How are you? -Hi, there.
I wrote you a check for $50,000...
You better get out of my sight.
It could have been maybe a year or so after he had left,
It had to be some legal folks, you know, attorneys or something,
about a class action suit that had been brought against Charlie Trotter.
And it had to do with labor.
I still, to this day, don't remember signing anything
that says, yes, I want to be a part of this.
That's where I was so shocked when I got the letter in the mail.
I don't remember signing and agreeing to be a part of any lawsuit.
There were two lawsuits filed. The first one was the kitchen staff
basically saying that they were being paid a certain amount,
but they weren't getting any overtime and they should've been getting overtime,
and so they were being underpaid.
There was also a lawsuit from the front of the house
saying that there were not...
They were not only working these long hours,
but they weren't receiving all their tip money, their service money.
I don't think anyone had to sign on for this lawsuit,
but people who had been there a certain amount of time,
were said, "Okay, you receive X amount of money,
because this lawsuit was settled."
At the time when I got the check, I was at Trio.
And I was making the same amount of money
I was making at Charlie's which was $400 a week.
You know as a cook in a city this big, you're scraping pennies.
So, you know, I wanted to travel extensively,
and get the knowledge abroad, and dine at all these great restaurants
that I've only looked up to and emulated.
So I felt like here's an opportunity to take this money,
I mean, Charlie Trotter felt like he was right.
He did things in a certain way,
and he felt like everyone who worked for him owed him
because he gave them the opportunity to work at Charlie Trotter's.
And so, if they complained about it, or if they sued him,
or were part of a suit, or accepted settlement
as part of a suit that they hadn't filed in the first place,
they were kind of dead to him.
Get the fuck out of here!
[Curtis] Um, you know, I felt a bit disappointed, but I can see his point.
I'd probably feel the same way.
Do I respect him as a person?
No. I've dealt with him for three years, he's a monster.
From a respectful level, the way he ran a business,
and the way he ran a restaurant, and the way the food was operated,
you can't take that away from him, I still respect him for that.
Dropping off plans, and...
You know, hopefully in about 58 days, we'll actually get a permit.
It's a big step, I mean, having the permit drawings ready,
I mean, that's a big chunk of our project,
that makes it serious, you know?
I mean, this is like... We're set with this now.
We're going for it. This is the permit that we're going to get.
I'll feel better when it's built.
Then I'll probably sleep a little bit better.
But, yeah, no, it's a major step.
This is actually the first time I've been back in the kitchen
since I left Avenues, it's a great feeling.
Um, Phillip Foss has been nice enough to allow us to use his kitchen
to prep for 800 people that the event's for.
We're trying to balance the dish with fat, acid, herbal notes,
So we think of... Fatty component's gonna be squash,
that's been roasted and caramelized,
another fatty component's gonna the coconut, of course.
And then we think of acidity,
we're making a vinaigrette with kumquats and Buddha's hand.
So that's gonna add as a counter balance to the fatness.
We got the pickled hon-shimejis,
we got herbal note from five different herbs that we're using.
And just the texture that we're getting from
the whipped herbs that we're using
is gonna bring another fatty mouth-feel to your palate
without actually having to add fat to it.
Where are we at with the rest of the stuff?
Julienne squash, we're doing tomorrow.
-Or is that done? -Shave...
We're just gonna shave it...
-Today or tomorrow? -Tomorrow.
As young chefs who's trying to make a name for themselves,
are always going to be cast upon the shadow
of someone who they've worked for.
I had an amazing time working for them,
Every article that comes out
I don't want to be mentioned with Grant Achatz and Alinea, and all that.
Because it's about Grace at this point.
It's not about where I've been. It's more about what we're gonna do.
Grant had the same thing with Thomas.
You get tired of seeing Grant Achatz associated with Thomas Keller.
And I know he got tired of it.
Heard him say it many times.
Not an article didn't come out
that didn't have The French Laundry attached to it.
Okay. At some point that starts to get old,
when you're trying to have your own identity, you know, as a restaurant.
By most people, Alinea is
the best restaurant in Chicago.
By some, the best restaurant in the country.
So now, he needs to bump me out.
In order for him to achieve his goals,
he needs to jump over me.
Chase it down, I did the same thing.
if the protege never surpasses the mentor,
the mentor didn't do that good a job.
So, if Curtis comes on the scene,
comes up with something that is new,
attracts enough attention,
to achieve a status that's higher than Alinea has achieved,
[Bobby] I mean, we're always early to these events.
Curtis always wants us here at least two hours ahead of time,
One of my first dishes for Grace too, so...
It's gotta be perfect. [chuckles]
[Michael] I haven't seen the dish yet.
So I'm a little concerned that it's not gonna work.
The idea is that the bubble sits in the glass,
and then they get to pop it, and then kind of work through that.
I think when the bubble hits the glass,
I don't know if the bubble is gonna be able to sustain it.
You know what I mean? I think the bubble's gonna pop.
Seven hundred and ninety-nine more.
[Michael] So you have butternut squash,
a little piece of Buddha's hands whipped herbs, and smoked coconut,
with a breath of lemon tea.
When you lift that coaster up,
you're gonna get a little bit of smoke, some lemon tea breath.
Wanna say hi to the camera?
Aside from rock musicians, and policemen, and firemen,
who are putting their lives out on the line on a daily basis,
you'll be damned to find a profession that is more taxing on the individual
and creates itself for failed marriages,
for drug addiction, for alcoholism,
for losing control of one's life.
And it's from as early as you can stand to get up,
'til as late as you can stand to stay awake.
You almost start to shut down and shut out everything,
Not spending time with your wife,
not communicating with your family.
If I were to walk out of here tonight, eleven o' clock at night,
I would wake up tomorrow feeling guilty.
Because I didn't put in the amount of time that was required
to run one of the best restaurants in the world.
my girlfriend would really like it if I came home at eleven o'clock tonight.
And I'm sure Curtis can speak to this directly.
We've all been through it, when you're in a relationship,
and you're a chef working at this level,
it's incredibly difficult.
In fact it's basically impossible.
It's just not fair to someone else to say,
"Let's date, you can have two and a half hours a week."
Especially if they're not in the industry,
because then, what, they're going to bed at ten o' clock.
to get up at 6:00 a.m. to go to work.
And it's like, "Okay, well, I'll meet you at 4:00 a.m.
to make a bowl of cereal for you when you..."
You know, what do you do?
Lot of people who don't work in this business don't understand
You know, why can't you go have drinks with me on Friday night?
Well, because we're working.
Why can't you... Oh, can you meet me at 3:00 a.m.?
That's when I can go have a drink 'cause we're closing.
People who don't work in this business, who never have, don't understand it.
You know, I tell cooks who come in to Alinea...
Before they're hired, I say, you're basically getting in a relationship.
Like, you need to really think about working here because
you're basically getting married.
you're gonna devote 14-16 hours of your day to Alinea.
And it's gonna leave you very little time for anything else.
If you have dog, find somebody to feed it.
If you have a girlfriend,
You need to take out your garbage,
you might want to pay somebody to do that 'cause you won't have time.
[Curtis] As we started to grow apart,
it became very difficult to talk.
And I think that's ultimately is what separated us
was the lack of communication,
and being to talk because
And when I was there, it's like,
it's not the thing you wanna do, is deal with problems
because you want to spend time with somebody.
But it's not what you wanna be doing is talking about issues.
This is gonna be the first Christmas
that I don't get to wake up to hear them running around the house,
all excited about the Christmas presents and things like that.
So, it's gonna be painful. I can tell you that right now.
It's not gonna be a fun day for me.
I don't have an answer on how to deal with it
because this is the first time for me
and I have to learn how to deal with it as time goes on.
I wanna see them. I wanna continue to experience that,
but right now it's not possible.
Johnstown, Ohio, is a rural setting.
It's 20 minutes from Columbus
and it's 20 minutes from the Amish country.
So there's a lot of farm area out here, it's very wide open.
It's still the small little borough.
Not a lot of restaurants in Johnstown.
This is what amazes me about Curtis, there wasn't anything here
to say, "Boy, I'd like to be in culinary school
for this reason, because of this and this restaurant."
It's a big area, but its still got that small-town,
you know, everybody knows everybody's business. [laughs]
Everybody knows you, everybody...
You know, especially when you've been here for so long.
When you experience something very dramatic in your life,
you tend to forget a lot of things from your childhood.
A lot of those memories I either push away or hide,
or I don't remember at all.
We weren't wealthy, we were pretty poor.
And I think that's where I get a lot of my drive is because
I never wanted to live the way that I lived
It was a tough childhood. They were very strict.
My dad would kick my ass all the time.
All the time. And my mom, the same way.
Actually my dad was a cop for a while as well.
And my uncle, both were cops.
And I think, had them not both of them been cops,
I probably would be in jail.
I was headed up to a football game here in town,
he threw a ball or something, hit me in the back of my head,
next thing you know, we're wrestling around on the ground.
One thing led to another, ended up being good friends, you know?
He was the guy in class that, you know,
he had olive skin, and all the girls liked him,
and I was kind of the short, tubby kid that, you know,
I figured, well, if I hang out with the good-looking guy,
maybe I'll get one of 'em gals too.
Junior High, you have to take certain classes.
Home economics was one of the classes that everybody had to take.
Well, as a guy, you look at that and go, "This is gonna suck."
Because I was into skateboarding,
I was into heavy metal music, and I was just like...
This is not what I... I don't want to iron,
I don't want to learn how to sew something.
But when it would come to cooking,
my teacher, Ruth Snider, would see this sparkle in my eye
about like we're gonna cook today.
And I was really excited about it.
Home EC room has always been here.
And this is where I first met Curtis.
Probably in the late '80s, I believe it was.
He was in the sixth grade.
I can just picture Curtis, I remember him,
especially as a sixth grader,
being at the back table, and we were making paddle pizzas.
And he just was so engrossed in working,
and working with the food.
He could be a little ornery at times,
and never disrespectful though, never, ever, ever disrespectful.
No, it's funny. Some people can't even sew.
Some people don't know how to iron their stuff.
But every time I iron a shirt, I always think about Ruth Snider.
He kind of led the group.
He would be the one... He was the go-to person, you know.
Somebody didn't know how to do something, it was, well, Curt will know.
He really wanted certain things done a certain way,
I think that's what's gotten him as far as it has.
Is how, you know, he just really likes to have it done
absolutely the best way possible.
She was such a great teacher in that sense of...
you know, very patient with everybody.
And just the sweetest lady you would ever meet. Ever. She's incredible.
He had a rough start before he came here.
I really feel that he thought that it was a safe place for him to be.
And that he knew that things would be okay in here,
at least for that 40 minutes.
In the eighth grade, the students would be able to choose...
Like I would say, "Okay, you're doing a main dish this week."
He always had that extra flair,
or the extra, you know, let's try this.
And he had that ability about him
that other kids would kind of follow along then,
and say, "Okay, if that's what you think we ought to try."
Then I moved on to High School.
And at that point Home Ec was optional.
So, you could take it or not take it.
When he learned how to cook, and when he was old enough to get a job,
it really did change him.
He had more of a direction.
So, I'd already started working in a restaurant full time.
And my focus was like, "This is it. This is what I want to do.
The first time I met Curtis was in the kitchen
in the pavilion at Muirfield Village.
I mean just different than any other young person that comes in.
He separated himself from the rest of the pack there,
and he just had a yearning.
He just wanted to learn, learn, learn. He was a sponge.
So I went directly from school to work.
And I worked from, like, 3:30 to 11:30.
So by the time I got home after the commute,
it was twelve o' clock, twelve-thirty.
I didn't spare a lot of time for the family, at the time.
[Trisha] I didn't see him anymore.
He was either working or...
Doing his competitions at school.
I'd just finished high school.
My parents had been going through some rough times.
So they decided that they wanted to separate.
Mostly my mom's decision.
[Trisha] It was a game to both of 'em.
It was a game that they were playing
You know, they started going through... I mean, basically through a divorce.
My dad didn't want it, my mom did.
My dad had started taking some anti-depressant.
And he seemed to be doing really well.
And decided to really just stop taking it.
You're not supposed to stop medicine like that. Cold turkey like he did.
You know, you're supposed to slowly wean yourself off.
So it started messing with his head a lot.
I'd walk into the kitchen, or I'd walk into the house,
and there would be pills on the counter.
Just kind of randomly, just like spilled out.
And there were times when I couldn't wake him up.
He was a very unstable person at the time.
The day of their wedding anniversary,
for my mom to drop the divorce.
He had come up to the apartment in the morning with roses,
and said, "Give this one last chance."
She said no, she was going through with the divorce.
He left, she went to work.
But he had already had it planned out, what he was gonna do if she said no.
She went to work and it was about lunch time.
Her and Angie were walking over to McDonald's for lunch.
And Dad pulled up in a brown car and had a sawed off shotgun.
ripped the insides out of it, took all the door handles off,
all the window rollers off, the locks off, everything.
Once you were in, you couldn't get out.
Made my mom get in the car.
Threatened to shoot her friend Angie.
And Angie took off running, and he grabbed my mom, put her in the car.
[Curtis] Drove 40 miles back out to the house where he was living.
At the time, the house, you know...
It was completely barricaded in.
He had set everything inside to where you couldn't see in.
And I wanna say Angie and a police officer came to the school,
to get me out of school 'cause they weren't sure where Dad had taken Mom.
We weren't sure what he was gonna do.
So they were gathering us all up.
I had a police officer knock at my door, and said, "You need to come with me."
This was probably two o' clock in the afternoon.
And I asked what was going on. Why? What was going on?
And he explained to me that my dad had come to take my mom hostage.
And they're out at the house and I need to be out there.
The police officers took me, and Angie, and my daughter,
until he could be located, until they could be located.
And of course there was a phone there, so I called Dad's house.
And that's where they were.
So I called and I talked to my mom.
Tried to talk to my dad, but my dad wouldn't talk to me.
I promised my mom that I would get her out of there.
She told me to stay away.
And I just promised her I would get her out of there.
[sobbing] and then he hung up the phone.
Hey, this is Bear. Me and Jan aren't home right now.
Leave your name and number.
We'll get back to you as soon as possible. Later on.
Bear, this is Sergeant Mason,
you need to pick up the phone and talk to me right now.
I need to know that everything is all right in the house.
Bear, Sergeant Mason. You need to pick up the phone and talk to me.
Bob, you promise me that you were coming out. That everything was okay.
-[beeps] -[phone line cuts]
[female voice] The person placing the call has hung up.
[Curtis] I was literally down the street,
about a quarter mile, about three houses down.
In a hostage situation, it's a give and take negotiation-type thing.
From what I understood, he was constantly asking to talk to me.
And I still struggle with that today. I don't know why.
I can hear the radios of the police officers.
or the detectives that were there.
All I remember is hearing shots fired, shots fired, shots fired.
The end happened very quickly.
Close the doors, close the doors.
My dad had shot my mom, and then shot himself.
Basically it had ended in a murder-suicide.
Fourteen-fifteen hours later.
I remember being very confused.
A lot of it was very confusing to me
because, you know, it was planned out extremely well.
[Trish] I think of my dad's calling hours,
I can remember my brothers.
I don't remember any reaction from Curtis.
It seemed like he was almost in a dream state.
Like, is this really happening?
I mean, that he just hadn't grasped the severity of the situation yet.
I just remember he'd just...
The dark circles under his eyes.
And he was going through the motions
My mom's funeral was in Colorado
because my grandparents wanted her there.
The communication was lost between us,
and people who were dealing with the arrangements.
She was literally on her way to the airport,
and we were able to get on the phone with somebody
to be able to bring her back
to a very random funeral home
where we could at least say goodbye.
So, the last memory I have of her
It's very cold. It's not warm.
I know my mom had goosebumps.
That's the only thing I can remember.
A pretty gurney. [chuckles]
Yeah, she had goosebumps.
I wasn't able to make the funeral in Colorado.
And from what I understand, and see pictures,
that it was very beautiful. Um...
And I'm glad she was able to have that there.
Unfortunately I missed it by a day.
I couldn't get out there.
Didn't have the funds to do it.
I was at least able to see her before she left.
It just wasn't the most pleasant setting.
I remember writing a letter that I gave him that day,
and asked him not to open it till he got home.
Because I know that as a young man, he needed his privacy.
But I also wanted him to know that he was not out there all alone.
And that he was not forgotten.
I think that was probably a turning point,
even though we were close to that point,
I think it was something where
I kept in touch with him a little bit more.
I just felt so devastated for him.
[Curtis] I remember going into the house
and literally couldn't be in the house for 10 seconds at a time
because the tear gas was so strong, you couldn't breathe.
It was just like it hadn't hit him.
We went to the house and it still didn't seem like it hit him yet.
When Curt's mad, he always...
He always just kind of stayed reserved.
He just wouldn't speak to you, you know what I mean?
That's the type of person he is.
I felt like he was bewildered,
and I was trying to basically put his heart at ease, you know?
I actually found this notebook at his house.
It was a letter that I never got.
He had finished... I could show you if you like.
There's a page in there that's addressed to my brother.
There's a page in there that's addressed to my sister.
And there's a page that's addressed to my mom.
But none of them were written except for me. Except for mine.
[camera man] Do you think we could see?
I found this at the house when I went back.
But I'd put it away for a long time, of course.
It says, "This is dad. I'm telling you from my heart that you...
You are a very special young man.
And I wish I could tell you how proud of you I am.
But words do not cover it all.
You'll be a great chef, no doubt in my mind.
You'll be one of the best in the world someday.
Please don't ever say you can't because that is not a word,
Your life is just beginning. Try to do all the right things in it.
Make sure if you ever get married and have children,
that you show them and your wife all the love in the world.
Always take time to be with them
[clears throat] Your wife should be...
Your wife should be shown the most love of all.
Take time to talk to her and hear what she has to say
because she will be the most important person in your life.
I ask you, Curt, to look back
and see how many, many wrong things
And please don't walk in my footsteps.
Because you will be in a world of pain, hate,
and sure won't be loved and won't be able to show love.
I know you have it in you, so please
show it to your loved ones.
You can't survive without it."
[sobbing] I need a minute.
Signing off for now. We'll talk another day.
Remember I love you son, and always will.
We've been staring at it on paper for, like, eight months now.
When you walk in, it's hard not to smile like an eight-year-old child.
'Cause you see the actual, physical
wall structure of what you put in your head.
I don't know, man, it's pretty cool.
If I go down that hallway, it's a very gradual ramp
that goes up into the dining room.
If I'm gonna go into the lounge,
It's progress and it's one step closer
to getting into this space and opening this restaurant.
So, how can you not be excited about it.
It's a lifelong dream, so...
Every single day it's a new step.
[Curtis] We're at The Chef's Garden
which is located five hours east of Chicago in Huron, Ohio.
They're here to serve and provide us
with ingredients that you can't find anywhere else.
The purpose of coming here to The Chef's Garden this weekend
was really to get the team away from the city.
And get the team back together in the kitchen.
[Michael] Over the past few months,
that sense of reality is starting to sink in quite a bit.
So it's intensifying these moments
that we're having now. I mean, it's really starting to get real.
[announcer] Five seconds. Stand by.
Well, it is one of the most highly anticipated
restaurant openings in the country.
And it's happening right here in the West Loop.
It's called Grace, and it will be helmed by Chef Curtis Duffy.
And he's here with us this morning. So give it up for him right now.
That's a pretty nice intro.
It's fantastic. Thank you.
Does that put the pressure on you?
A little bit, yeah, absolutely.
Okay, so this has got to be
one of the most highly anticipated openings
across the whole country.
How are you holding up under all that pressure?
I'm good. We just started menu development yesterday.
So we're excited about getting back into the kitchen
and really start to hone in some of the dishes
that we've been thinking about for now a year or so.
Can you tell us an exact date?
-'Cause I know the opening's been pushed back a bit. -Yes!
We're pushing for the late October.
But probably the first week of November is what we're really gonna focus on.
So, we really close, we're really close.
Why so many delays? 'Cause it was supposed to open up in June, right?
Yeah, there are so many delays.
They are just obstacles that we have to overcome
within all the subcontractors and things like that.
There are unexpected things.
You try to foresee a little bit of 'em,
but some of 'em you just can't.
I wish sometimes the subcontractors had the same
drive and mentality as a chef does.
Where it's like you do what it takes to get it done all the time,
whether you stop to take a break or not,
They blame it one person,
who blames it on the next,
which goes on in this big circle of,
"I can't do this until this guy does this."
"I can't do that till this guy does this."
"And this guy can't do that until that guy does his stuff."
And they're all pointing fingers.
I know that being a chef has taken its toll,
in a drop of a hat if he would call and say,
"Ruth, can you come to Chicago? I need you here."
I would drop everything and I would be there.
I just feel very fortunate that I can look upon him as a son.
I really do. That completes the life.
The day that Grace opens or when he has family and friends night,
or whenever he wants me there,
if he wants me there both times, I will be there both times.
I'd wash dishes if he'd needed me that night,
If he needed me to set tables that night, I would...
Whatever he would need done, I would do for him.
There is no doubt in my mind, I will be there.
[Curtis] It's 4:00 a.m. and we're at Acadia restaurant in the South Loop
working on menu development for Grace restaurant.
Chef Ryan McCaskey was very generous
in allowing us to step into his kitchen.
Basically handing over his restaurant to us
and letting us come in here.
We're working on a central dish that's based around four ingredients.
We have sunchoke, we have mustard, we have celery,
We typically take sunchoke,
and peel them and cook them in a way
that, to me, was very boring always.
I always thought why do we get rid of the skin?
We use potato skins, we use a lot of different skins when we cook.
My thought process was let's poach it, sous-vide it,
try to get some flavor into the sunchoke,
and then let's fry it and see what happens.
And the result ended up being...
Because there's natural sugar in the sunchoke
It had this really nice chewy texture, crispy at the same time.
Then we started thinking of what else we wanted to use within that realm.
First thing that came to my mind was celery and mustard.
We're taking the ricotta, it's actually goat milk ricotta
so we wanted a sour note to it.
What we've done with our onion is also roasted the onions.
dry 'em and then turn them into an oil,
and then we also blacken some other ones that we keep.
One side of it is charred and one side of it is cooked through.
So we take four major components,
usually no more than five,
and try to expand on that ingredient,
and see how many different techniques we can use for that element.
Once we get back into the kitchen it will be refined even more.
It just needs to be a little bit more balanced.
So it needs to have a little bit more fat throughout the dish,
and a little bit more acidity throughout the dish.
I think each of it is styled and they have...
Right now we're gonna call our potential hires,
and see if they're still interested, and then offer them positions.
-[man on phone] Hello, chef. -Good morning,how are you, sir?
Very good, chef, how are you?
Well, I'm calling you to let you know,
and ask you if you're still interested in a position at Grace.
Well, then I wanna say, "Welcome aboard."
-Awesome. Thank you, chef. -You're welcome.
And I'd like for you to keep it very confidential that you're hired as well.
-Thank you. -My pleasure, thank you.
Okay, chef, I look forward to meet you.
Okay, we'll talk to you soon.
-Okay. Bye. -Thanks, bye-bye.
Super enthusiastic. Really excited.
We've been waiting on a truck that's been late for four days now.
And when it shows up, the shit is just in total chaos.
Some of these major boxes that have all the equipment inside
had fallen on top of each other, so...
Trying to assess the damage as they come out.
We're spending hundreds and hundreds of thousand of dollars on this kitchen,
To me it seems like, "Eh, just another kitchen."
You know what I mean. And it's not.
Can you just, it's kind of right here,
your first name, last name and then he lists it here.
I'm Elsa, nice to meet you.
Jordan, nice to meet you.
This is your restaurant, so walk around. Go see the kitchen.
Stone went in on the countertops of the kitchen.
It's absolutely beautiful. So walk around,
see the bathrooms and stuff.
It was the largest piece of glass that can be tempered.
And we had three large pieces brought over here.
We have to take 17 people from zero to 150 miles an hour
in, you know, these next two weeks.
The expectation on behalf of the people walking in through that door
is that they're gonna be at that level.
So if they're not, then shame on me.
And shame on chef, so we just can't let that happen.
All we're doing today is going over the employee handbook
talking about, in general, just Grace philosophy.
What we do here, how we got here,
Our goal is to achieve the highest level of culinary and service status
without pretense, snobbery or presumption.
Instead every moment in our service pattern,
every ingredient we place on a plate,
every drop of wine we pour in a glass,
comes from on honest and genuine place.
We are never cold or robotic, dry or insincere.
This is not a job. It cannot be.
It represents much more than that.
Our ability to achieve these standards does not represent what we do,
There are 50 billion restaurants in the city of Chicago.
And you traveled here and chose us.
And for the prices that we charge, it's even that much more of an honor.
What an unbelievable thing.
They gotta know, they will know
that we are faithful, that we are gracious
about their presence and their participation in our dining room.
Good afternoon. Thank you for calling Grace.
This is Amy. How may I help you?
Any food allergies or dietary restrictions that we should be aware of?
You said four people. What time would you like to come in?
Okay. Wonderful. Thank you so much. Bye.
[Curtis] Yeah, Ava's lost four teeth now.
I was there for her last one which was last week.
Unfortunately I'm not able to be there
and put that stuff under her pillow that she thinks is the Tooth Fairy.
I remember the conversation we had with Ava
when we told her that I wasn't gonna be living there anymore.
It was pretty upsetting for her, of course, and then...
Um, Eden. Yeah, actually she just thinks I work a lot.
When I leave at night time after I tuck 'em in bed,
that I'm going back to work, and I'm leaving.
I'm thankful Curtis cooked the turkey in our new oven.
And I'm thankful all of our health and success in the future, yeah.
-Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! -Happy Thanksgiving
Thirty-two, thank you. Thirty-two.
At home I do practice by myself
giving a full description to the mirror or with my brother.
I practice on my standing point,
and, you know, speaking out loud and clearly.
But not too loud where I'm bothering the next table.
Gonna be 14, 12 to 16 hours.
[camera man] Is that normal for cooks?
When you work at restaurants like this, yes.
When you're trying to be the best
you sacrifice your sleep, family, friends, your social life
but at the same time I'm trying to get somewhere in my life.
And I know what I have to do to get there.
So I keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing till I do.
You know, you eat with your eyes first.
And it's very seductive, you know.
From the linen, to the china, to the ambiance.
And it all comes together, it's like poetry.
Well, I have a son and decided to come see how well he cooks.
When he was young, he didn't eat a whole lot of food.
Very proud, very impressed. I've been getting very full.
The food is out of this world.
Coming from a small town Louisiana,
to come eat food like this, it's pretty amazing.
Every night's been such a stress fest. You sit and you're thinking to yourself,
at some point I'm just gonna start crying like an idiot.
You know what I mean, so... I said to every single one of them,
if you bring to me every day,
drive, and focus, and positivity, and energy, and work ethic,
then what we will give back to you is a thousand times that.
If you need a ride and I got a car, you'll have it.
If you need money, and I got it, you'll have it.
If you need support, if you need to learn something,
if you, you know, whatever...
'Cause most of them haven't seen their significant others or done anything.
To be here till four in the morning,
and turn around and see them here at eight
[sobbing] How do you say thank you, to those kids?
You can't. You just can't.
I'm grateful, I'm thankful.
Trying not to be emotional about it.
But for me it's a dream come true.
what I've worked so many hours for.
So many days away from my family.
from the very bottom of my heart, thank you.
Thank you very much for being part of this team.
Being a part of opening this restaurant.
And the journey towards something great.
I'm blessed to have a business partner, Michael,
to support me 100% in every decision that I make.
But mostly as a friend, first and foremost.
'Cause I know he has my back, 100%
and I'm thankful for that.
[laughs] I don't know what else... Yeah, exactly. Ditto.
I don't know, I can't. How am I supposed to say it, I can't.
Be good, do good, try hard, okay.
[Curtis] I'm nervous as hell. I'm anxious.
I'm overwhelmed with excitement.
It's hard to sit back and realize
that this is the day that all those thoughts
and all the time, everything that you sacrificed for this moment,
I don't think about that.
But I have to step back at some point today,
and try to enjoy this moment
'cause this is everything we've worked for.
[camera man] And you're going to be pretty excited to see Ruth as well?
Good luck, daddy. We love you. Good night.
"Good night, Daddy, we love you. Good luck."
That's awesome. Just awesome.
Push, push, push. Pairings, pairings, pairings,
Captains, my Cadillac salesman,
let's see pairings all night tonight on that.
Let's see some real sexy pairing sales.
This is our business. Ready. This is what happens.
And this is what's gonna happen to us forever from here on now.
These five o' clocks, to six-thirty resos, they gots to go.
At 5:30, we have a one-top.
He's a conductor, he is a big fan of ginger ale,
not so big on food descriptions.
He's a regular at many of the other restaurants that we've dined.
Let's befriend him and show him how warm and gracious we can be.
At 6:00 p.m., we have three tables.
Two deuces and a three-top.
The first deuce, Juan Florez.
He's a line cook over at the Trump.
Mr. Florez is also a Marine.
He served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I have a soft spot for taking care of those who've done those things.
Let's take very, very, very good care of him.
And champagne, on me, please.
7:00 p.m., another two-top.
A Chicago-based foodie who's always looking for the next new meal.
Pulls out her phone, pay attention.
8:30 p.m., a two-top at table one.
No Facebook. Doesn't turn up anywhere on the Internet.
Somehow figured out a way to score a reso here on our opening day.
Why do I say that? 'Cause we're so hot? No.
If anybody who was here on opening day
saw how many times the phone rang?
You had to call, like, a thousand times just to get through.
For somebody like that to try so hard,
try that hard to get a reso here on opening night
and not exist on the Internet is weird to me.
And then at 9:30 p.m., our final two-top.
This is Chef Duffy's Home Economics teacher.
Very close and personal friend of mine.
champagne 'em, the whole nine.
All right. Let's go. Have fun.
I'll take those right back. Hands, please.
Four beef and a chestnut on deck?
[Curtis] Ruth has always been there.
You know, she's always been there.
She's there for support and...
You know, that's hard to ask somebody to be there for support.
If you need anything, if you need a place to live,
if you need money, if you need...
Whatever you need, I don't care what it is,
To have that and feel that from somebody is, you know,
A true friend. Ruth Snider's a true friend.
-Oh, honey, I'm so happy for you. -How've you been?
-I'm just so happy for you. -So awesome.
-Good to see you. -You too!
[Ruth] Oh, we do get to see the kitchen!
-Thank you. -Well, enjoy...
-Welcome to Grace. -Thank you.
I know Chef Duffy's very excited to have both of you in tonight.
And you'll be able to really get the nice...
We need one more for Snider.
[Curtis] I'm gonna take care of that.
Two of your best pieces, chef.
Your best ones. If you need to fire more, fire more.
These are your two best ones, chef?
-They're oiled and salted. -Yes!
[Ruth] I want him to know that I'm proud of him for being the man he is.
Not the chef, not all of this wonderful restaurant,
I'm proud of him for him.
But I'm so thrilled that his dream has come true.
I mean, all his hard work, and we've talked, he's sacrificed.
You know, there's been things that have happened
that he has sacrificed to get to this point.
[Curtis] She's special because she was able to see somebody that was...
Was not in a place to, one, financially,
buy things that I needed to buy for school.
And I was constantly in trouble.
And I think she was the lady that looked past that
and could see something unique
or special or whatever you want to call it,
and nudge me, guide me in that direction.
[laughs] I'm just... It's just... It is just awesome.
I am just so, so proud of him.
He really... He means a lot to me, he really does.
[woman] Clock out and go home, everyone.
Please go home. 2:00 p.m. tomorrow. Two o' clock tomorrow.
It was a good night, but don't get all crazy
'cause tomorrow we have more.
It's gonna get crazier. And then Friday, then Saturday.
[Curtis] Yeah. It would be nice to understand happiness. Sure.
I mean, I'm happy, of course, but...
Balance is what's missing.
In this lifestyle there is no balance.
You can't be great at something
and put a 100% into everything without sacrificing something else
because I'm so hungry for the professional,
yet I'm so hungry for the personal.
But this kind of overweighs it
I'm Candace. I'm calling from the Michelin Guide.
We are calling you with some amazing news.
You are being awarded three Michelin stars for Grace in the new edition.
-Congratulations. -All right. Thank you.
-All right, bye-bye. -Bye-bye.
Let's go tell the kids, huh.