For this year’s Reader Key Ingredient Cook-Off, we asked some of Chicago’s top chefs to create a dish to honor a person who influenced their cooking. The exercise stirred many kitchen memories.

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Chef: Evan Sumrell

Restaurant: The Ogden

Prawns and “tater tots”

Mentor: Ryan McCaskey, chef and owner of Acadia

“[Acadia] was the first place I worked when I moved to Chicago. I didn’t know anything about fine dining, what it took, what it was about. I learned a lot of discipline. [McCaskey] made me understand what it takes to be successful in this business, how much work you need to do, what you need to put into it. It’s just something you have to be in love with.

“We used to do a dish at Acadia—scallops or prawns with spoonbreads, made out of cornmeal, which always made me think of tater tots. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, and my background is southern food, so I love shrimp and grits. What I’m doing is a spoonbread that I fry up like a tater tot, so it’s prawns and tater tots, or shrimp and grits, with an egg sauce with green garlic ash and pickled radish. Very simple.”   v