The Sun-Times reports today that yet another international chef is sniffing the shores of Lake Michigan for an outpost–maybe. In this case, vurryfamusfrenchef Alain Ducasse, he of the three three-stars in three cities. The story, which has a slightly boosterish edge, is actually the now-we-can-tell-you (though at least lightly eGulleted) tale of one night in December when Ducasse showed up late at Avenues and asked Graham Elliot Bowles to cook for him. “It was like cooking for the Messiah,” said the chef. According to Avenues’ manager, who asked, Ducasse was “undecided” about Chicago, but the story provides a little interesting speculation that leaves the issue open.
I am generally torn when I read these kinds of stories about Ducasse and Robuchon and others: on one hand their attention feels vindicating and cool, but much more I wonder would Chicago–at its worst–become a well-intentioned, high gastronomic amusement park like Vegas, where you have to have one of each celebrity boite, like a very, very spendy food court? Will what’s best about this town in the first place–being a place where chefs can afford to learn and experiment–get killed off? Is there room for everybody? Is there money for everybody? Does a rising tide lift all boats or swamp some crucial ones? How far will all this cheffy empire building go (into Chicago, from Chicago) in general? Do these stories matter as much as they seem to? Well, I won’t borrow trouble. I must try Bowles’s smoked potato beignets.