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Hungry Magazine - All Things Tasty
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02.23.09

Spicy Subido

Profiles in Food: Interviews


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It always amazes me how the quiet folks tend to have the most spitfire personalities. There’s so much more beyond the surface; so much to be discovered. Kristine Subido, chef of Wave Restaurant and Bar located in the W Hotel on Lakeshore is just this kind of “timid firecracker”. After serving as banquet chef and executive sous chef at the restaurant, Kristine graduated to executive chef four years ago. And she’s been sculpting her Mediterranean-inspired masterpiece ever since.

Her love for food started in her native Philippines. With mom being a great cook, grandpa being a butcher, and the bounty of the South Pacific as her backyard, it was only a matter of time, nine years to be exact, before Kristine delved in to all things culinary. Once the end of high school neared, she see-sawed between her two loves: cooking and dancing (note to ABC: “Dancing with the Chefs”). But growing up in the shadow of emerging food culture mania, she enrolled at Kendall College, promptly becoming the youngest student in her class. When asked what she prizes most from culinary school, she lauds her French training. “I use that process in cooking Asian, in cooking Moroccan, anything. It’s the most organized method of cooking and by having that technique, you can work anywhere and cook anything.” Her Filipino heritage and her traveled history have helped transform her into a chef who puts a spicy Asian and Mediterranean influenced spin on classics dishes.

Perhaps Kristine’s greatest contribution at Wave has been her monthly kitchen classes. Each month of 2008, she crafted a new supplemental menu; one that followed the Asian Silk Road and focused dishes from a particular nation. One month was Japan, while another was Vietnam, India, Lebanon, and so on. The exploration on her part came from her desire to dissect traditional dishes and indulge in her global training. “It made perfect sense,” she says. “My cooks were very excited to work in different kitchens each month.” It also allowed her to parlay her infatuation with spices, another hot topic that sets her voice aflutter.

“I love green cardamom, coriander, and cumin,” she says as if she’s picking out her favorite children. “(At Wave) we make our own garam masala, curry powder, and ras al’ hanout. We make our own salt mixes too.” For someone so spice-happy, it’s no surprise to hear of her adventures on Devon, where she regularly takes her classes for “field trips,” and her frequent family meals at Pho 777 on Argyle St..

2009 brings with it a new monthly menu format. Instead of the Silk Road format, she’s partnering with The Spice House in Old Town to teach classes on infusing different kinds of spices into foods. She wants to teach a little history about the spices and familiarize her students with new ingredients they can take to their home cooking. Case in point: upon a recent visit to Little India, Kristine gleefully discovered papadums, puffed little chips typically made with lentil or rice flour and spices. She now offers the wafers as snacks in the restaurant.

Subido is a chef for the people. Be they enrollees in one of her classes, guests at the hotel, or folks off the street in for a meal, she aims to serve something unique and reflective of her heritage. “Wave is definitely Mediterranean-inspired,” she asserts. “But I tweak it with Asian and Moroccan.” In addition to her verve for cardamom, she’s also into preserved lemon (“it makes everything taste better”) and cilantro. “I use coffee a lot to infuse into spice blends. It adds a lot of great flavor to lamb and beef.”

So what does the future hold for Subido? “For now, I’m committed to Wave. But in the future, I’d love to do something small on my own, with simple good food.” She draws parallels to what Bill Kim did in stepping out from fine dining into his Urban Belly noodle shop. Having constructed such a foundation at Wave, she almost blushes when saying “with my repertoire, I hope I get the cojones to move away.” Whether “away” means somewhere in Chicago, or somewhere back home in the Philippines, where she says she’d love to do some business, Subido’s certainly moving in the right direction.

Wave is located at 644 N. Lakeshore Dr., 312.255.4460

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