Ahead of the third Michelin and Robert Parker Wine Advocate event in Macau’s International Chef Showcase, owner and head chef Curtis Duffy shares about his journey towards his critically lauded restaurant, Grace’s three Michelin stars, his own tragic childhood shaping his food and the next Asian destination where he will make his mark on.
You have worked mainly in Chicago for most of your culinary career. What is the food scene like in Chicago that attracted you?
Chicago summed up in one word would be diversity. Chicago is home to an ever widening culinary landscape. It is supported by a city filled with adventuresome diners who go out of their way to support restaurants just like Grace. This encourages even more exciting and adventuresome restaurants to open.
How have you affected the food scene in Chicago? Who is your favorite chef?
A chef that I often look up to is Michel Bras. His dedication to the purity of his craft is something that I have always admired.
I am not sure that I have affected the Chicago food scene. If I have, I would hope that it would be in the way of balance.
You’ve been awarded many accolades for some of the restaurants you’ve headed up and opened. What do these accolades mean to you?
We are very proud of the awards that we have won and the accolades that have been bestowed on our restaurant. However, awards and accolades are not why we do what we do. Regardless of past awards, we strive every day at Grace to be better than we were the day before.
What is the ultimate accolade for you?
The ultimate accolade is when a chef has worked in our kitchen for a number of years and then leaves Grace to go on to create their own vision. It’s the ultimate accolade to inspire the next generation of chefs so they can write their next chapter in their own food journey.
Your documentary For Grace told the story about your childhood (including your parents’ death in a murder-suicide) and how it led you to become a chef today. Was it difficult to share so publicly?
Absolutely, I wasn’t sure how people would react. It is a very personal aspect of my life to share with people. I felt that it was important that the story be told. In the end, I felt that no one would understand my food if they didn’t know my story.
You’ve discussed about the way one can properly run business and the kitchen. Do you find that rare in the restaurant industry famous for monster chefs?
I think it is changing more and more. In the past restaurants and especially kitchens were brutal environments to work in. I came from those environments and there are many positives aspects that I have taken from those environments. I have also noted the negative ones. As we designed we most definitely took the lives of the employees into account.
How important is wine pairing for your food?
Extremely important. At Grace, wine is treated at the same level of respect as food.
What is your favorite wine?
At the moment, Rioja.
What is the dish you are most excited to prepare for this dinner?
There is not one particular dish, I am excited to share the entire menu with everyone here.
Any chance of opening up a restaurant in Asia?
Yes, we have. My business partner Michael and I have talked specifically about opening a restaurant in Macau. We are being careful with our brand and taking it one step at a time.
Who is your legend?
Curtis Duffy highlights the third International Chef Showcase at The Tasting Room, City of Dreams, Macau on December 1, 2016. More info found here: www.michel.in/2fPsM5P