Chicago chef popping in for dinner

Up and coming cooks often travel to other cities to work for free (stage) at exciting restaurants. But there's a new trend in the restaurant world, where top chefs are going on tour, and making appearances at carefully selected restaurants in cities that they don't call home.

Last year, chef-owner Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York City promoted his new cookbook by taking over the kitchen of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country for a single night.

At Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif., chef-owner David Kinch is celebrating the restaurant's 10th anniversary with a series of dinners, "Cooking With Friends," featuring collaborative meals with other celebrated chefs.

In Princeton, N.J., elements restaurant has a tradition of inviting other modernist chefs to co-host dinners during the summer chef series.

Local chef David Racicot of notion and 314 Pasta and Prime is slated to cook there on July 13 along with Shawn Gayle, pastry chef at Corton in New York City.

And in a few weeks, Chicago-based chef Brandon Baltzley is coming to Pittsburgh to cook a dinner at Salt of the Earth with executive chef Kevin Sousa and sous chefs Chad Townsend and Kevin Rubis. In the culinary world, Mr. Baltzley is about equally well known for his culinary prowess -- he's cooked at some of Chicago's most acclaimed restaurants including Alinea and Schwa -- and his struggles with substance abuse. Recently, however, he's been leading a quieter life, focusing his energies on a series of pop-up dinners known as CRUX, and long-term plans to start a farm and then a restaurant near Cherry, Ill.

He and Mr. Sousa had been in contact over the years, having bonded over a similarity in their cooking styles. Four months ago, on his way from Chicago to Maine, where he's spent the season working on a farm, Mr. Baltzley stopped in Pittsburgh to meet Mr. Sousa and eat in his restaurants. Before he left, they decided to collaborate on a dinner, to take place July 22. Mr. Baltzley will return to Pittsburgh just a few days before the dinner, to prep and spend more time with his collaborators.

He and Mr. Townsend held weekly Skype meetings to plan, sometimes joined by Mr. Rubis and Mr. Sousa. They started with the produce that they knew would be in season, then built a menu around those items.

The modernist menu is typically opaque but evocative, with dishes such as "peach + corn + smoke + lamb breast" and "veal heart + sour cherry + avocado + cocoa + huitlacoche + buckwheat." It's also elaborate, consisting of 12 courses with some surprise bites before and after. The dinner is limited to 36 people and will cost $175 per person with an optional drinks package for $75. View the menu at and call 412-441-7258 for reservations.

China Millman: 412-263-1198 or Follow her at


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