Chris "C.J." Jacobson's first task while getting acclimated to Chicago is to strike up rapports with local farmers as he preps to inaugurate Intro, the new Lettuce Entertain You revamp of L20.
"I guess I'm kind of a guinea pig, but I'm just really excited to do learn more about what grows here in Chicago and express what I can culinary wise," Jacobson said.
Details on the menu are scant. Jacobson, a "Top Chef" alum, plans on offering a juice pairing for those who don't booze and a five-course menu which will run diners $75 to $80. Richard Hanauer, sommelier at Lettuce's RPM Steak, will assist with wine pairings.
Before committing to ingredients, Jacobson said he wants to get a better vibe for Chicago. Intro is LEYE's new restaurant that will feature a revolving chef for two- to three-month periods. LEYE's head honcho Rich Melman tabbed Jacobson as the restaurant's first chef, after Jacobson wowed him with a meal about a month ago. Jacobson will start his three-month stint in February; he'll also live in the same building at the restaurant, which will minimize the impact of Chicago's winters for the California native.
The 6-foot, 8-inch tall Jacobson serves as the executive chef at Girasol in North Hollywood, and he'll continue to keep an eye on his baby while in Chicago whether it's conversation with his sous chef or weekend trips back to the California. Intro will close on Sundays and Mondays.
Jacobson knows Chicago's winter temperatures won't allow him to easily emulate his cuisine from the west coast. He may fly in some ingredients from the Golden State and add some California accents to menu, but Jacobson still wants to keep the Intro's menu "very local."
"I'm not about to come to Chicago and try to cook like I'm from here," Jacobson said. "What I am going to do is the same thing I do do in California, that is to get to know the local farmers and get a feel to what they do have, root vegetables, things that might be possibly growing in greenhouses."
Intro will be the first restaurant that employs Nick Kokonas' Tock ticketing system. Besides convenience for patrons, Jacobson see value for his restaurant's staff.
"It's amazing, it really helps out with waits and we know what we're producing each night," Jacobson said. "When do you ever give your money in advance at a restaurant? it never happens, it seems like it's meant to be...it's ideal."