Despite a near decade of food-centricity in the West Loop., the rail-side industrial corridor of low-rising lofts is still demonstrative of its meat packing origins. In the morning, factory workers are seen in their white overcoats loading and unloading meat trucks, washing the sidewalks, and stocking surrounding restaurants for an evening of high standards that patrons have come to expect from Chicago’s slaughterhouse-chic neighborhood.
In 2003 when they met, as standards were still being set, Chicago-born chefs Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski understood the challenge they faced, cooking side-by-side. Common vision for art in a sausage-loving town left the two in a struggle to find a true creative outlet in Chicago. They took from other parts of the world in search for inspiration and traditions behind German, French, and Slavic cuisines. After finally establishing a clear vision in 2011, Thomas and Kurt have now opened the doors to TÊTE Charcuterie at 1114 W. Randolph St.
Panoramic windows pour in ambient light, stained mirrors, brightly colored red tile walls, and glistening stainless steel hardware serve as a stage for Kurt and Thomas in the former warehouse space, recognizable only by the leftover wood-beamed ceilings. The exhibition kitchen is the center of attention for visitors, where the co-founding chefs and staff perform like surgeons on either side of the counter. While Thomas uses precision forceps to stack pickled slices of thinly cut beef cheek, Kurt separates one delicate micro herb from another to create a masterful cocotte of floral garnish over spring vegetables. Still, to watch their rhythmic timing or to hear their brotherly banter is not enough to understand the extent to which the two chefs create unity between the kitchen and the guest.
Drawing from a catalog of international expertise, such as assisting Paul Liebrandt in the acquisition of two Michelin stars, Thomas boldly pushes boundaries of excellence, while maintaining a reverence for French methods and customs. The idea that the charcuterie board is an essential part of a full dining experience, is just one example. Kurt’s style is effortlessly complimentary, merging seamlessly to reimagine Midwest tradition of sausage-making, as told through the emancipation of the Boudin Blanc, served on a bed of lentils and topped with a thin blanket of smoked bacon.
Like the French origins of the Boudin, each recipe at TÊTE has an artistic story—one that’s told in the menu, in the presentation, and in the craft. As a guest at TÊTE Charcuterie, one might compare the artistry to a theater performance, as told in the playbill, in the set, and in the artist’s skilled delivery.
1114 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607