Chef's Choice: Jeffrey Constance, Hanley's Grille and Tap

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click to enlarge Constance shapes his stuffed meatloaf - Robin Wheeler
Robin Wheeler
Constance shapes his stuffed meatloaf
After Aureole, Constance married his Belleville girlfriend and returned to New York for a stint at Gramercy Tavern under Tom Colicchio. Even though he moved through the ranks quickly, he and his wife missed the Midwest. He worked as executive sous chef at Chicago's Spruce the year executive chef Keith Luce won a James Beard Award. Constance took over the executive spot, but when he and his wife became parents, they longed for home and their families.

He got involved with J. Buck's in its first year. When J. Buck's closed several locations last year, Constance jumped at the opportunity to fulfill his culinary vision with his own restaurants.

"[J. Buck's] was a concept-driven restaurant, not a chef-driven restaurant, and I wanted to get back to that. I developed a lot of concepts of my own but I couldn't do them inside that group. When I left the company back in October of last year, the opportunities came forward. The concept I'd developed was quite a bit different at that time, but at the same time I had these buildings -- I had two locations with quite a bit of volume, so I tweaked the concept a little bit, refined it a touch because it was even more casual than what I developed, but it was always going to be chef-driven with the casual price. And I love comfort food. It gets back to what my dad and I were doing when I first learned how to cook."

click to enlarge Hanley slices the finished meatloaf, which is filled with goat cheese and tapenade - Robin Wheeler
Robin Wheeler
Hanley slices the finished meatloaf, which is filled with goat cheese and tapenade
At Hanley's, Constance is able to combine his original love for the comfort food he and his dad made with the French and Italian techniques he's learned in his work. The meatloaf he made for me highlighted his love of these different culinary worlds. The meat was textured like pâté, filled with chèvre and a Provençal sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade and then served with a mustard bordelaise sauce.

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