He opened his first Chicago restaurant, the much-honored and still-going-strong Zealous, 12 years ago and Michael Taus debuts his second, Saltaus, next month. A Culinary Institute of America graduate, he interned with Pierre Pollin at Le Titi de Paris in Arlington Heights, IL, served his apprenticeship with Charlie Trotter, then spent a year at Joachim Splichal's Patina in Los Angeles. Along the way, he moonlighted by cooking at Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, East Indian and Thai-Philippino restaurants. His ingredient—driven global cuisine at the more casual Saltaus will echo that of New-American-style Zealous, where the Zagat Guide characterized Taus's work as "Brilliant cooking without a safety net."
With your new restaurant about to open, and Zealous still going fullbore, you must be one busy guy.
I was today. I got up at eight, had some cereal and fresh fruit plus some coffee, then met with my chef de cuisine at Zealous.
Planning the day's menu?
That, sure, but we're part of a James Beard Dinner at Charlie Trotter's tomorrow. We had to figure out an item that could go into the gift bags.
How'd it go?
Fast. We banged out 92 pieces and we were done.
Done with the gift bag. Will you still do a course at the dinner?
Sure, we're on for that, too.
What a schedule! Home cooking probably takes a back seat for now.
Oh, no. I'm always cooking at home. I never sleep.
Some chefs keep it simple at home so they get a break from their work life.
Not me. Cooking...hey, it's a talent you have. It's fun. It's your art. If I was a rock star, I'd sing anywhere. Why not cook anywhere?
That must be why you keep all these great ingredients in your fridge.
I love cooking here for friends. It always looks easy to them. They don't know that I spent a couple of hours prepping before they arrived.
What might you make for them?
Everything. I had a breakfast guest recently who wanted French toast with mango jam. She thought my place was like a restaurant where you order what you want.
So you spoil them.
I make a lot of Asian food at home. It's fresh and healthful. The other night it was sushi, and I do a lot of Thai.
This Chinese carryout looks good.
It is. This came from a place called Three Happiness over in Chinatown.
That's a long way from here, isn't it?
Yes. It's like a skit from Saturday Night Live every time I call. I know there's a $35 minimum. I know it will take 11/2 hours for the delivery. It's the same phone drill every time.
But worth it?
Definitely. Nice people, too.
How's the new place, Saltaus, coming along?
We're making progress. My partner, Nader Salti, is awesome. He's a vascular surgeon.
He's carrying some of the load?
A lot. He's great at aspects like design and negotiation. I did Zealous on my own, and it's nice to be part of a team.
It's going to be casual?
Yes, but with ingredient—driven global cuisine.
Good luck with Saltaus. It sounds like the place is going to be great.
| WHAT'S CHILLIN': |
Coffeemate Lowfat Hazelnut Creamer
Fiji Water Tempeh Seitan (Vegetarian Wheat Gluten)
Cyprus Grove Chèvre Purple Haze Goat Milk Cheese
Morbier,Chaumes and Cabrales Cheeses
Oberweiss Lowfat Milk Veuve Clicquot Rosé, 1995
Leftover Chinese Food