The chef behind Claudia, a long-running fine dining pop-up that garnered critical praise before closing last year, has started a fundraising campaign via Kickstarter to open a restaurant near Lincoln Square. While operating the pop-up, chef Trevor Teich scouted locations and spoke with investors about opening his own restaurant but plans fell through. Frustrated, the suburban Chicago native last year moved to Las Vegas to work at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Teich now plans a return to Chicago regardless of the success of his campaign, though he hopes crowdsourcing funds will circumvent the obstacles in opening a restaurant.
Many Chicagoans are weary of big restaurant companies eating too much of the city’s marketshare, getting in the way of the potential successes of independent owners like what Teich aspires to be. It’s a competitive battle for real estate and kitchen staff. Teich has worked for these big-name groups. He grew up outside of Chicago in Northfield and carries a star-studded resume. He worked under Laurent Gras at Lincoln Park’s L20. He also worked at Acadia, NoMI, and Sixteen. But despite those connections, Teich said it’s a struggle to compete. Claudia debuted in 2015.
“I’m kind of done with waiting for some millionaire to come along and to give me a shot,” Teich said. “I’m taking things into my own hands.”
With Claudia, he garnered enough buzz that Tribune dining critic Phil Vettel even decided to review his experience; it’s a rarity for the Trib to review pop-ups. Teich said he has a year of menus written out and many include updated items he served at Claudia. The pop-up’s signature may have been a bento box full canapés including tuna and foie gras versions with Teich’s own ponzu. Other dishes include king crab with caviar and white chocolate. Venison with red cabbage purée, carrots, mustard flowers, and seeds may also be served. He’ll also have wine pairings.
Claudia also earned a Jean Banchet nomination in 2017 for Best Alternative Dining. But despite the positive vibes, Teich was unable to close the deal that would give Claudia a permanent home. 2017 was a difficult year for fine dining in Chicago with restaurants like Grace, 42 Grams, and Tru closing for various reasons. Those circumstances made it “impossible to get any fundraising done,” Teich said.
This time around, Teich’s dream appears in reach. While he won’t disclose an address, Teich said he’s hopeful he’ll move into a space between Lincoln Square and the lakefront. Details need to be finalized, but the space has room for 30 seats. It hasn’t been occupied in 20 years and needs work. And that’s why Teich needs money. The campaign started on Tuesday with a $30,000 goal.
After the challenges he’s gone through over the last three years, Teich is hesitant to provide an opening timeframe for Claudia. Check the Kickstarter for updates and stay tuned for details as Teich releases them.