While Hell's Kitchen is still in the early stages of the fiercely competitive cooking show, we have learned that one Chicago contestant is making plans for his future. Former Cibo Matto sous chef Russell Kook will reunite with his old boss, Todd Stein, at the Florentine. The upscale restaurant will be in the soon-to-open Loop hotel JW Marriott in a building originally designed by Chicago planner Daniel Burnham. Since he's starting a new gig, we can surmise that Kook doesn't make it all the way on the show, but this could also be part of his wide cover up.
Kook, along with another Cibo alum, Mark Newman, will help Stein open the restaurant, which will have 200 seats among a fine dining room and a more casual bar/lounge area, which Kook says will be one of the coolest in Chicago. The menu will lean toward rustic Italian and focus on pasta, fish and meat, with many of the ingredients coming from local farms. The Florentine is currently scheduled to open in early November and will no doubt create a lot of buzz based on the critical acclaim Stein earned at Cibo Matto.
As for being on Hell's Kitchen, Kook said it has been an amazing experience and that Chef Gordon Ramsay is "fair and that's about all you can ask. If you fuck up, he's up your ass. If you do a good job he tells you." He also said Ramsay is hilarious and approachable, but at about 6 feet 2 inches and about 225 pounds of solid muscle, is also quite intimidating. Yeah, we don't think we'd want him screaming at us with his face that close to ours. We'll stick to the sidelines.
Russell Kook [Photo: TV Guide]