Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'Top Chef' Alum Takes Over at English

Radhika Desai has been named executive chef of English. (Photo: Radhika Desai)

Former "Top Chef" contestant Radhika Desai is taking over as executive chef at English, in River North.

An Ultimate Insider tells us that she'll start in mid- to late-March, and we're looking forward to the changes on the typical pub grub menu.

Our source says to expect seasonal items, plus Desai plans to incorporate her rich ethnic background into the mix. Look for contemporary Indian accents to blend seamlessly with English-focused dishes and appetizers.

Desai was previously exec chef at Between Boutique Cafe and Lounge, which is now up for sale because its owners are working on a new project in Downers Grove.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Tea Party!


OK, so we're all really just big kids at heart, right?!

Put 312DD 100 percent down for Four Seasons' Mad Afternoon Tea Party happening opening weekend of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" (starring Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Johnny Depp!).

In addition to finger sandwiches and Wonderland-inspired pastries, expect a truly mad d├ęcor, tea cup decorating, Royal Chess and Red Queen’s Croquet, using the traditional pink flamingos as mallets.

Seatings begin at 3pm on March 6; reservations highly recommended. It's $15 for kids and $32 for big kids.

You're certain to have fun, but just don't lose your head!

Our Chefs Are Much Nicer on Twitter

Phillip Foss, executive chef at Lockwood (Photo: Lockwood)

Lockwood's Phillip Foss is perhaps the most daring chef in town—when it comes to Twitter.

Gems like this, this and this get him noticed for his humor as much as for his food—but he always plays nice.

But that's not always the case in New York, says the New York Times, which highlights some rogue chefs using Twitter to go after competing chefs, suppliers, critics, bloggers and even customers:

"For many chefs in the current economic climate, cooking no longer seems enough. To make their names, they need to develop online personas as well as culinary ones. And with instant access to the Web, chefs—who have traditionally been walled up behind the dining room—are bursting out and talking back, often more profanely than can be conveyed here."

Thank God Chicago's chefs have more restraint, but for the best info—and laughs—you should definitely be following the engaging Stephanie Izard, John des Rosiers, Mark Mendez, Grant Achatz, Rodelio Aglibot, Rick Gresh, Rick Bayless and Dan Tucker.

500 Benjamins or Bust . . .

Kyle McHugh of Drinks Over Dearborn (Photo: Kyle McHugh)

. . . is what Drinks Over Dearborn owner Kyle McHugh says he needs in order to continue to do business in his River North venue.

The self-described "boozehound" appeals to the public on his website to get his specialty spirits, wine and beer boutique back in black:

"I have done everything I can possibly imagine to help Drinks Over Dearborn weather our country's current financial situation, but I'm now out of money, out of credit, and out of time. We simply can not continue to go forward in the state we are in financially, and there is still no money available from banks or the SBA for a small alcohol-related business from any of the many sources I've tapped in the last few weeks."

McHugh says he needs 500 people to start an account ($100 minimum) at his shop by 5pm Feb. 28 in order to stay in business. Participants would be able to purchase spirits, glasses as well as upcoming classes and events. Customers will also get a five percent discount on all items in the store and access to VIP in-store events.

He'll be doing a 24-hour webcast telethon—live from Drinks Over Dearborn—beginning at 5pm Feb. 27 and ending at the deadline of 5pm Feb. 28. The in-store event will feature live music and comedians, plus there will be plenty of booze to abuse, just in case this is the last call.

UPDATE: In less than 24 hours, they've managed to get 97 pledges! McHugh posted an update on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

Don't Forget to Cast Your Ballot . . .


. . . in the annual Time Out Chicago's Eat Out Awards.

A number of noteworthy chefs, restos, mixologists, specialty shops and bakeries deserve your vote, plus your girl is also up for Best Indie Restaurant Blog.

That's right! 312 Dining Diva has finally been recognized for its tireless and unique coverage of Chicago's vibrant dining and nightlife scene.

Vote here; you've got until 9am March 15 . . .