Hot Pockets: David Posey, A Breakout Chicago Chef Declares His Love for Italy

Tasting the risotto
Tasting the risotto

Hot Pockets is a series of chef interviews that appear on my blog or for other publications.  My interview with James Beard Rising Star David Posey originally appeared in Forbes Travel on December 2, 2014: A Breakout Chicago Chef Declares His Love for Italy

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts recently decided it was time to bring on five new signature dishes to its iconic menu of recipes that already included delectable standards such as eggs Benedict, red velvet cake, Thousand Island dressing and the eponymous Waldorf salad.

Through exciting (and oftentimes unpredictable) pairings of Waldorf chefs from five different hotels in Paris, Rome, Edinburgh, La Quinta (California) and Shanghai and a partnership with the James Beard Foundation, Taste of Waldorf Astoria was born, and so were unique signature dishes that will hopefully be celebrated on Waldorf menus around the world.

At the Rome Cavalieri encounter in October, its veteran toque Heinz Beck met with Rising Star Chef of the Year nominee David Posey, who’s also the former chef de cuisine for the Windy City’s beloved Blackbird, for five intense days of tastings, testing and touring the Eternal City. The result? Posey and Beck’s redefinition of risotto. We caught up with Posey to talk about visiting Rome for the first time, eating around Chicago and venturing out on his own in 2015.

What can you tell us about the risotto that you helped to create? The rice risotto that Heinz and I made is something that I’ve been playing with. It’s based on the idea for a dish I had in Paris and a technique I read in a cookbook. Heinz and I worked on the dish for a few days to really refine it and hone the flavors. I really enjoyed working with Heinz. And with the celery root risotto, both of our culinary voices are heard. There is modern technique, which I love, then Italian flavors and sensibilities that Heinz is know for.

Beck Posey 2
Beck Posey 2

What do you like about Rome? Rome reminded me of my hometown of Los Angeles, with the amazing climate and busy city life but with a more relaxed attitude.

What is iconic Rome to you? The icons of Rome would have to be the general ancientness of the city. Just walking around, passing a 2,000-year-old building, then a 700-year-old statue, or, in the evening, seeing people still living in 500-year-old houses.

What is an iconic Rome taste? Rigatoni with amatriciana [a spicy red sauce with guanciale] and cacio e pepe [pasta with cheese and pepper] were two great pasta dishes that I tried, which are special to Rome. My favorite bite that I had, though, was mortadella on focaccia, which Heinz Beck showed me when we went to lunch in an amazing little enoteca.

Where did you eat in Rome and what did you think? I didn’t get to eat out as much I liked, but the meals I had were great. Heinz took me to Roscioli, where we had a great pizza rossa [with only red sauce], pastas and salumis. Then I was lucky enough to eat at La Pergola, which is Heinz’s amazing three-Michelin-starred restaurant, twice. His pastas, and minimal use of fat or dairy, really blew me away.

What is iconic Chicago? Iconic Chicago, for me, is a city of progression. We have the country’s first skyscraper, then we built the country’s tallest skyscraper. The World’s Fair was in Chicago for a while, where anything groundbreaking at the time took place. With that progression, our city burnt down, so we got to build it all over again.

What is an iconic Chicago taste? Chicago has quite a few well-known foods, the most known being the Chicago dog and deep-dish pizza.

Favorite places to grab a coffee or snack? There are a few favorites of mine here in Chicago. For coffee, I love Bow Truss, which is a new roaster in the city. I love Portillo’s for Chicago dogs and Au Cheval for cheeseburgers.

What are your plans for 2015? My wife, Anna, and I are working on opening a restaurant in Chicago. It will be modern farm-to-table food at an affordable price point, similar to the new bistro style of restaurants opening in Paris.