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

Oct 15, 2009 at 4:15 pm

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click to enlarge The meatloaf, in close-up - Robin Wheeler
Robin Wheeler
The meatloaf, in close-up
Such strong, complex flavors combined with the ultimate American dish might sound like strange bedfellows, but they work together beautifully. Meatloaf doesn't have to taste like a crumb-filled giant burger slathered in burnt ketchup.

With his two new restaurants and his family settled back in his old stomping grounds, Constance has more restaurants planned. "I've got a sister concept that's going to be more upscale that I want to do down the road. Also, I'd like to do a fine dining restaurant."

In the meantime, he's reconnected with his roots. Dade Farrar, the original drummer for Uncle Tupelo back when they called themselve The Plebes and the Primitives, plays occasional gigs at the Illinois location. Constance has also remained close with Dade's brother, Jay, whose gigs provided Constance with his start in the culinary business.

For Constance, the worlds of music and food aren't far removed from each other: "I can equate writing menus with writing music. I often talk with Jay about it, and how as a chef you write the menu and that's your album and the cooks are like cover bands. They're cooking them for you but keeping them consistent and true to the recipes, and not letting them evolve.

"A lot of times a menu item goes bad because one guy does it a little different and the next thing you know you've got a completely different dish on your menu than what you created. It's not the same, but it's hard to get it back."

Coming later this afternoon, the recipe for Jeffrey Constance's meatloaf.

Robin Wheeler writes the blog Poppy Mom. She is a regular contributor to Gut Check, including the columns The Dive Bomber and Throwback of the House.