Current Position: Executive Chef; NoMI Kitchen at the Chicago Park Hyatt (link)
Restaurantware Interviewer: Your culinary training is rooted in classic techniques, how important was your educational background to your dessert concepting as pastry chef at the NoMI Kitchen at Chicago Park Hyatt?
Chef Galus: Like any craft, foundation is everything! You have to know how to make perfect ice cream, mousse, sponge cakes, before you can incorporate those elements into a dessert successfully.
Restaurantware Interviewer: You work in a very food-centric town, how do your peers and mentors in Chicago inspire you to continue innovating in the kitchen? And whose work inspires you the most right now?
Chef Galus: We are so lucky to work in a community of such driven and creative chefs. Even beyond that, our chef community here is collaborative and supportive, especially among the pastry chefs. We are always open to sharing ideas, techniques, ingredients… We enjoy working together when we can and experiencing each other’s work. I find inspiration in many people’s work, and inspiration from chicago pastry chefs as a whole to keep pushing and moving forward.
Restaurantware Interviewer: Tell me a bit about your participation as a Chef Finalist in the Chicago Restaurant Pastry Competition by Jimmy McMillan – how has that experience shaped you?
Chef Galus: Wow, it’s hard to put into words. Going in the first year, none of us knew what to expect. It was only my 2nd competition, and I learned more than I could have imagined. Coming back for season 3, there was so much more (self-induced) pressure to perform, as the only return competitor and the only Chicagoan. Plus, the bar had definitely been raised by the quality of work of the 2nd season, the exposure the competition I had received and the challenges within the competition itself. I had to be more prepared, more focused. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out on the videos – it was definitely a roller coaster of a weekend!
Restaurantware Interviewer: You’ve worked at NoMI since 2011, collaborating with Executive Chef Ryan LaRoche, how do you keep the menu fresh?
Chef Galus: I am very fortunate to work with an executive chef and chef de cuisine who are also good friends of mine – it makes working together more rewarding. It’s a seamless collaboration between us, and our food really works together. I use as much local produce and dairy products as possible in my food, and follow the seasons for flavor. We also have 3 tarts on our menu that change all the time to accommodate whatever is freshest or most inspiring. Last summer I did 100 different tarts in 100 days!
Restaurantware Interviewer: With social media channels facilitating conversation channels between kitchen and guest in unprecedented ways, has social media impacted the dishes you create? Chef Galus:
Chef Galus: Every once in awhile I’ll bounce an idea out to my twitter followers – it’s a whole new way to ask our guests what they want to see on our menu. What’s really exciting to me is to see the response to photos or posts about process – often instagramming a photo of something in process garners more response than a perfectly composed dish.
Restaurantware Interviewer: You have said that amongst all desserts, you find tarts to be the perfect balance of refinement and ease. What’s your favorite tart variety to create?
Chef Galus: It changes all the time! Personally, I’m a chocolate fiend. But this time of year I usually do an eggnog inspired tart with brown sugar cake and nutmeg-vanilla cream. It’s decadent.
Restaurantware Interviewer: You were nominated as best new pastry chef by Food and Wine and one of the top ten pastry chefs by Tasting Table in 2012 – how does this sort of recognition drive you forward?
Chef Galus: It’s always nice to be recognized. I try to remember though that for every recognition I get, there are a bunch of other pastry chefs out there just as deserving (and I try to remember that when I’m on the non-receiving end too). Certainly there is an increased expectation from guests when you are a recognized chef. Also, every recognition is an affirmation to my team – I am nothing without them. They enable and inspire me to do the things that gain the recognition.
Restaurantware Interviewer: What is the best dessert you’ve had in the recent past?
Chef Galus: I was in France recently – I had a Lemon Verbena mousse from Hugo et Victor that was unbelievable, and for me, so unexpectedly my favorite, be aid it is not a flavor that I gravitate to normally.
Restaurantware Interviewer: With the holidays looming, what’s the Thanksgiving dessert you’ll be bringing to your family’s table?
Chef Galus: My mom’s fluffy green jello. Straight up 1970s lime jello, mini marshmallows, canned pineapple, the works. It was on every holiday table of my youth, and sharing it with my family now is one of the ways I remember and honor my mother, who passed away 11 years ago.