Thursday, January 29, 2009


GQ, february 09


In 2007, a little-known chef cooked a legendary meal—and then disappeared. Alan Richman checks in on Michael Carlson and his reopened restaurant, Schwa

This was truly an amazing piece telling the unsaid story of the event at Schwa nearly two years ago. I felt journalist Alan Richman did a wonderful job of portraying the intimate aspects of not only a man but also the world he lives in.  I could feel the story as I read... of course I had a connection to it.

Michael Carlson had worked for me as a line cook under Grant Achatz (Alinea) at Trio, my other life.  He had a brashness that could get in your face and a humble side that would return apologetic. Upbeat, funny, always on the move, it was hard not to like him.  When it came to work however, Michael was intense.  His precision was very evident in every movement along the line, aggressive but not bullish, focused and aware.  I admired him and very proud when he opened Schwa.  My dinner there was phenomenal and although I had many concerns about service, ambiance and financial stability, I considered it to be on the top of the Chicago list of great restaurants.  I recommended it to everyone, now only if they could get in.  The following year he took the Food and Wine Magazine's Top Ten list.  He had made it and he did it HIS way, even with being closed on weekends!

So when he abruptly closed after cooking for the culinary giants of the world, I was stunned. Rumors flew around about drugs, alcohol and rehab which I took with a grain of salt waiting to hear the real story.  It all didn't seem real, Michael was a bulldog, he wouldn't take that route. Unavailable by phone, voicemail was full (as usual), I was left to wonder.

So when I heard that he was planning to reopen I was ecstatic, a resurrection!  Excitedly I ate there last May after managing to reach him using every trick in the book to get in. Reservations are impossible.  Michael was the same, vibrant intensity, food reaching new heights and no explaination as to what happened.  Not that it mattered but I was always curious.  What a hell of a story!  

Check it out>>>

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