As Kevin Hickey prepares to open Otto Mezzo in River North, something had to give. Hickey is no longer the executive chef at The Duck Inn, the restaurant he founded in his native Bridgeport. Hickey will concentrate on other projects as Rockit Ranch Productions has hired a replacement. The Duck Inn started serving from chef Kris Delee’s new menu on Wednesday.
Hickey asked Delee to keep the duck on the menu, and Delee agreed. Other holdovers include the scrumptious duck fat dog, burger, and the cheese curds. Hickey told the Tribune that opening The Duck Inn was a dream job, as he’s a Bridgeport native. Hickey will continue to work with Rockit and open “a family of cool spots.”
Delee is a Las Vegas native, but is familiar with Chicago. He’s worked at Stout Barrel House, Henri, The Portage, and Graham Elliot. His father was born on the South Side before he moved to Vegas, and Delee still has family in the Northern Suburbs.
Hickey contacted Delee about six months ago about the job and the two quickly melded. Delee has a phrase he coined about six years ago, “working-class fine dining.” He feels The Duck Inn and Chicago’s South Side fit well within the genre.
“It’s not easy to go and get dinner at Grace on a whim,” Delee said.
Delee is eager to plant roots on the South Side and add to the Duck Inn’s mystique. There’s a foie gras mousse on the menu which is a throwback to ants on a log. They even mold the mousse to look like Legos in a childlike twist.
Staff will also use leftover spot prawns and scallops, along with Iberico ham scraps to make an Iberico XO sauce. Delee said it’s kind of a tribute to Chinatown, which neighbors Bridgeport.
The Duck Inn isn’t the only restaurant with a chef change. Angelina Bastidas has left AMK Restaurant Group. Bastidas, a former Top Chef contestant, said she resigned as executive chef on Sunday. She hopes to latch on with another restaurant in Chicago. AMK consists of AMK Kitchen Bar in Bucktown and Nosh & Booze in the West Loop. Nosh & Booze was supposed to be a temporary restaurant, only lasting through the end of 2016. But AMK has continued to operate Nosh & Booze which occupies the former Vivo. Vivo closed in July after 25 years. Bastidas joined AMK in October and she was to help grow AMK with their expansion plans.