The Cover by Hilton Chicago Central Loop lodge (226 W Jackson) is host to a trendy bistro, Depot 226, which gives breakfast, lunch, dinner and a comfortable hour to locals and lodge visitors alike. We lately interviewed Depot 226’s Govt Chef, Tim Letsos about working onerous to make his dream come true (and to show his dad fallacious) and why locals should not cross on this vibrant, Monetary District lodge eatery.
*This interview has been edited for readability*
Chicago Meals Journal (CFM): Please inform our readers about your self and whenever you knew you needed to be a chef.
Tim Letsos (TL): I’m the Advanced Govt Chef for the Cover by Hilton and the Hilton Backyard Inn positioned within the Central Loop of Chicago. I’ve been a Chef for the Hilton model for over 10 years. I initially began with the Marriott model however received my first Govt Chef place with Hilton.
My dad and mom got here from Greece – my dad really got here right here on a ship from Greece which took 30 days. As soon as he arrived, he began working as a line prepare dinner at completely different Greek eating places in Chicago till he opened his first restaurant with my uncle on the age 20, that’s how I used to be uncovered to the restaurant life and enterprise.
By the age of 14, I used to be working my father’s place – slicing gyros, flipping burgers and dealing each weekend to make my allowance. My dad was at all times saying, “You need cash, you need to work. Nobody ever gave me cash…I earned it.” So I did. Whereas my associates loved their weekends and summer season holidays, I’d work.
As I grew older and mastered the restaurant enterprise I received bored, I wanted extra and needed to study extra about meals. So, I left working with my father, which he was not very comfortable about. He stated “You’ll by no means be greater than only a line prepare dinner. Why are you leaving?” That fueled me with extra ardour and anger to study extra and be one of the best chef I may very well be. With a chip on my shoulder, I received my first lodge job at a Marriott as a line prepare dinner, working my manner as much as Kitchen Supervisor till I received the decision for my first Govt Chef place with Hilton.
CFM: What drew you to the place of Govt Chef at Depot 226?
TL: I had been working with my earlier GM at one other property for over 4 years. He moved on to a unique property however earlier than he left, he informed me if there was one other alternative for us to work collectively he would give me name. A yr later he did – opening up a twin property within the central loop of Chicago. He stated all the pieces can be began from scratch and that I’d be the creator of all the pieces. That is the dream job that I had been ready for.
CFM: How is the expertise working at a lodge restaurant distinct from working at a standalone restaurant?
TL: Working in accommodations in comparison with working with standalone eating places are very comparable. Each require loads of work. You rely extra with the lodge in your occupancy, you do not essentially get loads of outdoors prospects. With eating places, it’s simply nonstop, you recognize when you will get hit.
CFM: Do you get a good variety of locals coming in or is it primarily lodge visitors that dine all through the day?
TL: What makes Depot 226 distinctive is that we’ve got constructed it round our locals that come for a drink and meals. They at all times come round the identical time and ask what our specials are. We love catering to them as a result of it’s a nice feeling to have captured them and have them go to us day-after-day. They might go wherever else in Chicago however they select us.
CFM: What ought to different locals learn about Depot 226 and why ought to they make it a downtown meals vacation spot?
TL: While you come into Depot 226, count on the very best – from the aroma of bread being baked in our deck brick oven to watching our bartenders making cocktails. Our cooks at all times have a smile on their face whereas they put together scratch meals for our visitors. That’s what separates us for the remainder, we take pleasure in our meals and promise dishes which can be recent and at all times served to your liking.
CFM: What has been the inspiration behind your menus?
TL: All of my menus have been impressed by my Greek heritage with a Mediterranean contact current in each dish. I additionally add a style of our nice metropolis with twists on native favorites.
CFM: What are another inventive plans you’d wish to ultimately do with the menu?
TL: I wish to add some extra dishes of my creativity and add some twists. You’ll by no means discover a boring dish on my menu, it isn’t my model. We are going to see what the long run holds!
CFM: What’s your ultimate time without work? Do you spend it cooking at residence or do you’re taking a break? Do you try a brand new restaurant or head to an everyday favourite?
TL: My ultimate time without work can be simply to unwind from all the pieces, spend time with my household or take my fiancée out or sure, even prepare dinner one thing on the home collectively. I’ve my specific spots that I like going to however I do like making an attempt new issues. My motto is at all times give them at the very least one probability to please you.
CFM: What are among the eating places which can be in your checklist that you simply haven’t been in a position to eat at but?
TL: Au cheval, Elephant & Fortress, Italian Village & Cafecito can be my high spots to take a look at for positive. These are the only a few locations I’ve not had an opportunity to strive but.
CFM: When you may open a restaurant wherever on the earth, the place wouldn’t it be? What would the idea be? Do you’ve got a reputation for it?
TL: My ultimate restaurant can be on a Greek island by the ocean. My menu would change every day with the recent catch of the day and no matter I can discover from the native farmers market. I’d name it Zoe’s, that means life in Greek. Everytime you dine with us your life will change and you’ll keep in mind us without end.