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Chef Martin: An Artist in the Kitchen

Chef Martin: An Artist in the Kitchen

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Among the finest French cuisine restaurants Chicago has to offer, there is no experience like Tru. Located downtown on North Saint Clair St., this “progressive” French restaurant offers creative expression in food and atmosphere, thanks to Executive Chef and partner, Anthony Martin.

Chef Martin has received many accolades for his culinary skills, including Chicago Tribune’s 2010 “Chef of the Year” and Restaurant Hospitality’s 2011 “Rising Star Chef.”

When he was younger, Chef Martin intended to go to art school due to many scholarship offers, but was intrigued by the Pennsylvania Culinary School nearby. “I wanted to go to culinary school the same time I went to art school,” he said. “At Pennsylvania Culinary, I was instantly interested in the school because of their sculptures in the windows; I liked the artistic side to it and was hooked.”

Channeling his natural creativity into culinary arts, Chef Martin not only focuses on taste, but on presentation as well. His cuisines are arranged with natural items based on the ingredients’ origins, such as using a scallop shell as a dish for his Day Boat Scallop (with hon-shimeji, cilantro, ginger, and lime).

One particular dish, the Maitake Crunch (with ramp and oxalis), is a crunchy decorative take on the Maitake mushroom. Wrapped in a light cracker exterior, it is decorated with colorful edible leaves with a lemon taste, and the Maitake Crunch is placed on branches with vines, the very ones the mushroom grows on.

While the cuisines are artistically done, the ambience of Tru also sets it apart from the typical French restaurant. Martin said, “When people think of French restaurants, they think of classic French—older Victorian style. The food element is still there, but more modern; it’s our own style.”

Tru displays artworks from modern artists like Vik Muniz, Gerhard Richter, Peter Halley, and Andy Warhol. Accented with rich black fabric, white drapes, and blue velvet banquettes, the sophisticated architecture of high ceiling and angles adds to the modern characteristic that Martin describes as “timeless.”

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Martin said there are some changes that are in progress, such as his collaboration with the restaurant’s DJ to compile “incredible sound to capture the vision we tried to create.” The music comprises of contemporary piano, electronica and classical.

A new and recent element to Tru is the restaurant’s “Chef’s Encounter,” where customers are invited to dine in the center of the kitchen and Chef Martin prepares their meals “on the counter they are seated to.” Martin said no one can make reservations for the Chef’s Encounter; it is a surprise for guests selected at random.

While creating new dishes for the ever-changing menu, Martin is always looking for ways to enhance the customers’ experience. “Customers are treated as guests, foremost. We want to create an atmosphere of luxury and elegance.”

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