Cook Like a Chef: Behind the Scenes with Intro Chicago

Opening a restaurant is no easy feat, even for the most experienced chef or restaurateur. Intro Chicago in Lincoln Park opened it’s doors in 2015 with the idea of giving entrepreneurial chefs a space to build and develop their own concepts. Intro has given Chicagoans a chance to explore the cuisines of a diverse group of talented chefs.

Once again Intro delivers on creating a unique dining experience for the foodie inside all of us. Executive Chef Stephen Gillanders collaborated with Intro alumni and friends, CJ Jacobson and Aaron Martinez, on the current menu and concept: Modern Chinese and Dim Sum. Everything from the Asian regions highlighted to the three-headed dragon on the menu and in the main dining play apart into their shared vision.

Fun Fact: That thee-headed dragon is actually a homage to the three chefs — take a look and you’ll see what they mean. 

(Left to Right) Chef Stephen Gillanders, Chef CJ Jacobson, and Chef Aaron Martinez

Cook Like a Chef

This month, Intro kicked off their first cooking class taking guests out of the dining room and into the kitchen.  Each chef walked small groups of 8-12 guests through the steps of creating one of their signature dishes that appears on the dinner Dim Sum menu. Guests tasted ingredients on there own and learned tips and picked up short cuts they can use at home to recreate these dishes. Among the dishes the chef chose to demonstrate were the Lightly Grilled Cabbage, Maine Lobster Dumpling, and the BBQ Mushroom Bao.

LIGHTLY GRILLED CABBAGE with numbing spice

Cabbage never tasted so good. From the varied texture of the baked and grilled cabbage to the complex flavors of the vinaigrette, it’s the perfect first course. It wasn’t just the rounds of tasting elements of this dish that kept us on our toes — chef CJ made this simple and elegant cabbage dish come alive.

MAINE LOBSTER DUMPLINGS with a jade butter

You can’t call it Dim Sum without dumplings, but these aren’t your average dumplings. Blending classical dishes and adding their own flair is part of what makes this menu standout. Chef Stephen spent the first part of our time with him sharing how elements of Chinese culture are woven into each dish from the herbs and spices used to the colors of the sauce. It’s apparent especially in this dish with the jade-colored butter sauce and layering of the ingredients to achieve the vibrant green you see on the plate.

BBQ MUSHROOM BAO with a sesame mayo

This dish is a flavorful punch of spicy and sweet. The pickled cabbage pairs beautifully with meatiness of the grilled mushrooms. Chef Aaron was sure to mention the versatility of this dish. From the different types of mushroom and cabbage available, this is one dish you can definitely make at home.

Exploring the Menu

The best part of any cooking class is always eating the finished product. In addition to the three dishes that guests learned to make, chef Stephen included two more of his favorites. The subtly spicy kick of the shishito peppers and the black pepper infused strip steak was the perfect savory dish to end on. If you manage to save room for dessert, chef Stephen’s custard tart is a must order!

(Left to Right) Singapore Black Pepper Strip Steak with Shishito Peppers and Hong Kong-Style Custard Tart Brûlée with Meringue

Now if you’re wondering if this amateur chef can actually make these at home — don’t worry. The chefs included a little extra dessert for road and recipes for the three dishes they taught us how to make as a parting gift to their guests.

Stay tuned to see how I do as I try to recreate these dishes at home!

Intro Chicago is located at 2300 N Lincoln Park W, Chicago, IL 60614.

Photos by Punya Krishnappa

Featured Photo by Intro Chicago

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