Koren Grieveson, chef de cuisine at Avec in Chicago, has really hit her stride in the last few years. Named a Restaurant Hospitality Rising Star in 2004, she made it onto Food & Wine's Best New Chefs list in 2008; this year Grieveson's a James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region. Grieveson honed her singular style and meticulous palate during a five-year partnership with Paul Kahan at Chicago's Blackbird, where she served as sous chef and helped propel the restaurant to national prominence. Grieveson was born in South Africa; her family lived in Angola, Iran, England and Brazil, then settled in the U.S. Before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Grieveson spent nine years in the U.S. Army and was a private caterer for the entertainment industry. We caught up with her at the home she shares with her partner and two dogs.
We hear you like to tool around on a motorcycle. What's your ride, and a favorite route?
It's a 1999 Kawasaki Vulcan. I like taking it long and slow south on Michigan Avenue all the way to Hyde Park and beyond.
Clearly, you are a fan of tattoos. Any interesting stories behind them? What was your first?
They're about important people who have passed through my life. The first one was done more than 10 years ago by a not-so-confident tattoo artist from upstate New York. Thankfully, you can't see that one.
What's the most surprising thing in your refrigerator, and why do you stock it?
We have baby turtles in the freezer. They were once pets, and we just haven't gotten around to giving them the Viking burial we were hoping for.
Anything your kitchen is never out of?
I'm never out of chicken stock and a good quality canned tomato. You can always count on a good soup and sammie here.
What do you have a taste for when you're eating away from home?
Usually when I have time to eat out I visit the same places. Our usual Sunday night spot is Coalfire Pizza. It's rustic, warm and dee-licious.
Introduce us to your furry friends.
Nona is a Doberman/shepherd mix. Lucky is a chihuahua/rat terrier mix. Both were rescues, but Nona was my first. We have a few other turtles as pets, but they and the dogs don't play well together.
When you're not playing with your dogs or out on a ride, you probably try to show up at work occasionally. What's your day like?
My work days vary. Typically I'm up by 7:30, I work out, make phone calls for work and make personal appointments throughout my crazy schedule. Typically my days vary from 8 to 15 hours. After work I throw caution to the wind and hope I land at home safely.
You've lived all over, so where do you vacation?
I'm still trying to plan one. That would be someplace warm where little brain activity is needed.
How would you describe a perfect day?
Getting all my chores done (which gives me peace of mind), not having to go to work, cooking dinner and hanging out with friends until 11 p.m. Then my tired ass needs to go to bed!