Dubbed the “ambitious new Mexican restaurant in Logan Square” by Chicago Tribune and Best New Restaurant by Thrillist, Quiote has quickly become a city-wide favorite. Known for its adventurous mezcal list and small plates, the menu won’t change much under new executive chef Ross Henke’s direction.
Not much is known about Henke even though he’s been rising steady in the Chicago culinary scene, recognized by local media as well as the Jean Banchet awards.
- An Illinois-boy through and through.
Born and raised in the South suburbs of Chicago, Henke describes himself as “the product of a Midwest mother’s cooking—casseroles, chicken-and-dumplings, and pool-side summer barbecues.”
- He went to school to be an architect.
Henke began cooking at a young age not out of love but necessity thanks to his mother and father working late into the evening. “I wanted to go to school to become an architect but then I realized school wasn’t for me. I went to Southern Illinois and dropped out after a semester. I wasn’t sure of what to do when I came home. I was casually chatting with my mom and it prompted culinary school. I said, ‘Whatever, let’s try it out.’”
- His first job was at the White Eagle Golf Club.
Henke finished up all his culinary courses at Joilet but did not graduate from culinary school, preferring to opt for real-life experience instead. Henke stayed at White Eagle for three years. “I was the happiest 21-year-old in the world making $28,000 a year. But I was overworked and realized I had no idea what was going on outside my little bubble.”
- He thinks Giuseppe Tentori (GT Prime, GT Fish & Oyster, Boka) is “a terrifying man”.
And, of course, he means that in the best way possible. Henke’s first stage opportunity was a one-day stint at Boka back when Guiseppe Tentori was the executive chef.
“Giuseppe was so intimidating! He has such a strong stature in the kitchen. I remember he was sitting in the sunroom at Boka drinking tea or coffee and talking to someone and I was shaking in my shoes, so afraid to walk in.”
That one day at Boka opened Henke’s eyes to a whole new world of culinary learning and made a huge difference to his career.
- His dream job was to work for Paul Kahan at PQM.
Which he did.
“I had to work at a Paul Kahan restaurant. When it first opened, The Publican was a game changer. It was ugly-pretty. It was this beer hall with strong flavors and cravable food. It was nothing like anything else in Chicago. I didn’t realize a meal could change my perception of a city but that one did.”
- He has an old stereo that he takes with him to every restaurant he works in.
One of Henke’s biggest takeaways from working at PQM is how music can affect people working together.
“I’ve had a stereo in every kitchen I’ve ever run or worked in since then. So many cooks have connected to that stereo [via Bluetooth] that I can’t connect to it myself! It’s a little memento that’s been with me through so many restaurants and so many ups and downs.”
- He’s a “Chance apologist”.
“I also really love Katy Perry. Dark Horse is one of our favorite songs [in the Quiote kitchen].”
- He loves R&D.
“I may not be the best cook in the world but I’ll out-work you any day of the week when it comes to research and development.”
This is a big indicator of Quiote’s menu success.
“I know I’m not going to beat the experts at Mexican food. So, we make food that’s inspired by the Latin pantry…dried chili, corn, masa, etc.”
- He believes in boozy brunches.
The new brunch menu at Quiote will have a similar feel to dinnertime. “It should be a slow, shared experience. Have some drinks. Get a bunch of small plates.”
- “Craveable food” is what he strives for.
Per his thoughts on R&D, diners will experience Henke’s passion for playful cravable food. Think high-end Japanese, French, and Southern techniques with Latin-influences.
2456 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
Dinner: Wednesday-Monday from 5pm-10pm
Brunch: Saturday/Sunday from 10am-2:30pm