We had the pleasure of joining Executive Chef Kevin Cuddihee and his team at TWO, an eclectic farm-to-table restaurant located on the West Side of Chicago. It was our first time behind the scenes in a professional kitchen and we were very excited to see all of the work that goes on in order for guests to have the perfect experience. Kevin’s mix of rural Midwest and urban finesse allows for a frequently rotated menu that includes rich seasonal ingredients. As the team prepared for the evening it was obvious to us that they work well together and constantly strive towards further exploration of their craft. After seeing all the prep-work we had to stay for dinner and it was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. We highly recommend you visit this Chicago gem to try some delicious well made food in a cozy and fun setting.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
My name is Kevin Cuddihee, I am the Executive Chef at TWO Restaurant in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago. I’ve been a chef for about eight years, working in restaurants for 21 years now.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Kevin.
My son wakes up around 7:30-8:00 am, we have breakfast together, we play and read for a few hours, I leave for work around noon. At the restaurant our menu changes constantly some days it's one item other days its five, all depends on the season and what is available. We work until 4:30 when we meet with the service staff and discuss and taste new dishes, comments/concerns/issues with food. Restaurant opens at 5 daily. We serve until 10 during the week and 11 on the weekends. At the end of the night my Sous Chef and I discuss new menu ideas, orders, what we want to change.
Where do you find inspiration?
Cookbooks, food photographers Instagram, chef’s Instagram, I'm always thinking about food. If I can’t sleep at night I think about new dishes, what I want to change, different components and ingredients. Rather then worry about problems I try to think up new dishes.
How do you make time for creativity and collaboration?
Being creative is the best part of my job, most people go to work and sit at a desk all day. I go to a kitchen, I get to work with people creatively, we talk all day bouncing ideas off one another.
What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started?
Focus on cooking because it’s the best part of being a chef. In order to be a great chef you have to be a great cook. If you don’t love cooking get out of the kitchen, there are lots of easier ways to make more money. Learn the finance side of the restaurant business. Being a chef is much more than being a good cook. Being a chef is: scheduling, budgeting, teaching, re-teaching, cleaning, mentoring, training service staff, PR, and cooking great food.
If you could live the life of another creative, for a day, who would it be and why?
If I wasn’t a chef, I’d be a watchmaker. I love the detail of watches; I have no idea how to make one though. It’s a very disciplined occupation, requires patience and lots of detail and attention to your work. I’d love to spend a day learning how to make a watch.
How important is it for you to give back to the community?
It’s extremely important. I’m not going to cure cancer or end childhood hunger. However, can I go to a event for a evening and make my food and the proceeds support those missions. Absolutely.
What keeps you motivated and making?
You go out to eat and have a great plate of food then I think to myself why didn’t I think of that? Then it immediately shifts to how can I make a plate of vegetables or a chicken better. It’s not a competition but rather how can I make something my own that satisfies my guests just like this dish did.