The Creative Surprise of Acanto's Chef Gawronski

Humble, unassuming, low-key: these are all words that would describe Chef Chris Gawronski of Acanto. Flying gently under the radar of Chicago's culinary media frenzy, Chef Gawronski is more action than talk, more talent than flash.

To my delightful surprise, when I filmed Chef Gawronski for the upcoming June 1 Dinner Party, Gawronski's creative streak and food knowledge warranted much more fanfare than he solicits. As you will see in the videos below, building on the joy of Spring (is there such a thing in Chicago?), Chef decided to make an appetizer of Spring Pea Cannelloni Salad with Slagel Farm Lamb's Tongue.

I made a tiny grimace. Lamb's tongue? "It tastes like ham," Chef pointed out and we like to use the entire animal at Acanto to assure there in no waste." I agree with that in full.

For the June 1 Dinner Party entrée, Chef whipped up before our cameras his special Veal Saltimbocca - with prosciutto - over Ramps and Carrots. Again Gawronski was showing his desire to take a classic, elegant dish and add his own creative twist, building off his extensive culinary knowledge, as he does on the Acanto menu with items like Wild Boar Meatballs and Duck Egg Spaghetti. And, for the record, his Veal Saltimbocca is one of the tastiest meat dishes I have ever had.

Chef Gawronski comes from a foodie family. Although he has worked in restaurants all over the U.S., including Michelin Star restaurants in Los Angeles, Gawronski learned by cooking and travelling around the world with his father: a master chef who owned Italian restaurants.

As outstanding as Chef Gawronski's cuisine may be, he has help in making Acanto one of Chicago's best restaurants. General Manger and Sommelier extraordinaire, Jon McDaniel (top 30 sommeliers in America per 2013 and 2014 Guild of Sommeliers) assures a brilliant wine list to pair with Chef's food. In addition, the décor and layout of Acanto are one of my favorite in the city: elegant and small, with a great bar, caramel-brown leather chairs around tables, and shelves stacking wine like books. You feel like you are in a personal, open-air den, right off Michigan Avenue.

Enjoy the videos below of Acanto's Chef Chris Gawronski making the appetizer and entree for the upcoming June 1 Dinner Party featuring actor Joe Mantegna, relationship expert, Bela Gandhi, and Sommelier Jon McDaniel. See for yourself the unsung talent of Chef Chris Gawronski.

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