Many thanks to
Fairmont’s Colleen Sweitzer for providing me this press release and also high resolution photos of Chef Chad and Aria Restaurant:
The Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is pleased to announce the appointment of Chad Starling as chef de cuisine in aria restaurant. “My philosophy is fresh clean cuisine to suit any palette.” With this in mind, Chef Starling has been inspired to redesign the aria menu. “It has been a labor of love. One of the most challenging and exciting endeavors in my entire career. I have been fortunate to incorporate my culinary experiences from around the world and the creativity of the entire aria team into one menu.”
Starling has also enjoyed getting out to meet local farmers and visiting the Green City Market. “Working with local sustainable farmers is a dream come true when designing a new menu.” And, for Starling, a nature lover, the sky is the limit. Michigan Apples, heirloom tomatoes, herbs grown in his own herb garden in front of the Fairmont, are just the beginning of this new adventure.
Starling, a Tennessee native, attended Chattanooga State University before realizing that food was his future. Starting at St. John’s in Chattanooga, Starling traveled to Flager’s and Grand Café in Key West and Wild Goose in Lake Tahoe before arriving in Chicago at the likes of Saltaus and Le Lan. With interim stops all over southeast Asia and world renowned restaurants in Las Vegas, Starling has even had a coveted mentorship with acclaimed chef Arun Sampantharvivat at Arun’s.
Now here’s a peek into the “no-holds-barred” mind of Aria Restaurant’s Chef Chad Starling as he steps out from the confines of his kitchen and faces my 20 sizzling questions.
1. Name the 3 “must-have” handy tools I will find in your Chef’s Tool Box.
I would definitely say my Masahiro chef knife, my kitchen tweezers, and my Kunz spoon (fyi, Kunz spoon is a large shallow spoon ideally suited for saucing plates; also enables to baste, stir, taste, pick up garnish, and form quenelles out of various purées and sorbets.)
2. If I get to cook your last meal, what dish will it be and why?
I would have to ask for a couple of things. Ever since my first time in a French bistro I have been hooked on croque madames. When I was in Southeast Asia I completely fell in love with pork belly in any kind of spicy broth with udon or ramen noodles. Those two things always make me very happy.
3. What vegetable do you eat most often?
Probably chilies. I love heat so I put them in everything.
4. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what is the one food you would want to have?
I would be lucky because I would have to have fish
5. Who is your cooking idol? Which chef inspired you in your youth?
I would have to say Thomas Keller. In 96′ he released the French Laundry cookbook and I was blown away that someone could do those things with food.
6. Name at least two words to describe your cooking style.
Bright, clean, bold
7. Do you have a favorite cookbook?
I love Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet a lot. It has a lot of great authentic Southeast Asian recipes. I also really like Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson.
8. What is your favorite summertime dessert?
khao neeo mamuang (sweet sticky rice and mango)
9. What is fantastic of being Chef Chad Starling?
To be able to come to work everyday and live my dream and share my passion with the world is pretty fantastic.
10. What family recipe do you most like to cook during holidays?
The woman in my family used to make amazing desserts like pineapple cream cheese pie, buckeyes, and peanut brittle that I crave every Christmas and Thanksgiving. (fyi, buckeye is a candy made with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and other ingredients.)
11. What food ingredient you don’t want in your food? What food ingredient you can’t live without?
My cooks could definitely answer this question for you. I cannot live without fish sauce and lime juice. It seasons almost every dish we have at Aria. One thing you will never find in my food is iodized salt.
12. Please name a favourite recipe:
To impress another chef?
Mano de Leon Sea Scallop, corn pudding, uni butter, Thai basil, and caviar
To comfort a newly-divorced friend?
Young coconut soup with brown rice, and shrimp dumplings
For an easy and relaxing week-end “all-guys” dinner?
Wild boar ribs with Thai bbq sauce and beer
13. Tell us about your unforgettable food event in Thailand.
I was with the Karen tribe in the mountains of Chang Mai for a few days. We took elephants to get up there and lived with them for a few days. It was my thirtieth birthday while I was up there and they slaughtered a hog and created a feast that night that completely blew my mind. They had over twenty dishes on one long table and we all sat and ate and drank together all night. I had no idea what most of it was but it was the best meal of my entire life.
14. What has been the one best thing about moving to Aria Restaurant? And what has been the most unexpected?
They have really embraced my vision and supported me 100% here, and it has been a phenomenal experience taking the reigns of such a well respected restaurant like Aria in the very prestigious Fairmont Hotel. An unexpected thing is that in coming here I am learning something completely new. We have a great sushi chef and I have learned to become pretty good at sushi, something I never thought I would get a chance to learn. As a chef you have to continually learn and evolve.
15. Please pick a recipe from the restaurant and tell us more about it.
When I worked for Chef Bill Kim he showed me his mother’s recipe for Korean shortribs. They’re amazing, so we do a variation on the recipe and put them in our pad see eew, and also put them on a sandwich in the Aria lounge and our wine bar Eno.
16. If you could be another celebrity chef for a day who would you be?
Anthony Bourdin. He has the best job in the world. Travel the world and eat…yes please!
17. What’s next in your agenda after being the head chef of Aria Restaurant?
Right now I’m very happy where I’m at, but I think it’s every chefs’ dream to own his own place.
18. In your travels and culinary adventures, what is weirdest thing you’ve seen on a menu?
Cobra heart that they take out of the snake alive at your table, and you eat it while it’s still beating. Pretty weird. (Chef Chad, I think you used “weird” for lack of a better word.)
19. Please tell me a simple way of preparing your favourite summer fruit or vegetable.I absolutely love heirloom tomatoes in the summer. I crave them all year and then you only have them for about 3 months. I like to slice them and put really good olive oil and fleur de sel on it and that’s it.
20. What do you recommend to students interested in a culinary career?
Realize that you’re going to work for 12-15 hours a day for little money for awhile, so you better love it. Also, find the best chef you can to work for, don’t worry how much you make at first because experience is priceless. One more thing travel, travel, travel.
You’ll find Aria Restaurant inside the Fairmont Hotel at 200 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago. For breakfast, lunch and dinner reservations and more information, visit website: www.ariachicago.com.
RECIPE: THAI COCONUT MARINADE
(from Aria Restaurant Chicago website)
A great yet slightly “out-there” marinade with coconut milk base for up to 2 lbs of beef, chicken or seafood. Chef Chad use it for flavoring the hanger steak in Aria Restaurant’s grilled beef sate special with spicy peanut sauce.
2 cups coconut milk
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt
Combine all ingredients together and add your beef, shrimp, chicken…marinated meat will keep fresh for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Now take a look at Aria Restaurant photos…awesome indeed!