We're excited to tell you more about our Executive Chef! Read on for a little bit about his culinary background and peek inside the mind of the Chef with a Q&A below.
Executive Chef Sean Spradlin specializes in Spanish and French influenced seasonal cuisine with a focus on sustainability and sourcing locally. He was born in the Midwest and his respect for locally sourced meat and produce started early when he experienced the fresh flavors of just picked vegetables on his grandparents’ farm.
He began his culinary career in 2008 at Hot Chocolate, where he trained as a line cook under James Beard award-winning Chef Owner Mindy Segal and Chef de Cuisine Mark Steuer. Under their mentorship, he continued to develop his technique and palate and was quickly promoted to the role of Sous Chef. In 2010, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard asked him to join the team at Girl & the Goat, where he continued to hone his culinary skills and assisted in writing recipes for her second cookbook.
After working together at Hot Chocolate, Steuer reached out to Spradlin to join him in opening the Bedford in 2011. As Executive Sous Chef at the Bedford, Spradlin developed a relationship with Midwest farmers and purveyors, creating seasonal dishes using locally sourced ingredients. When Steuer made the move to open Carriage House in 2012, he brought right-hand man Spradlin with him. As the opening Executive Sous Chef, he had the opportunity to create several of the dishes on their celebrated menu.
In 2014, Sean was offered the position of Executive Chef at Pure Kitchen, where he brought his passion for sharing his culinary experiences through his food to the Chicago event scene. As the opening Executive Chef at Eat Purely, his commitment to outstanding, creative cuisine using locally sourced ingredients is now available delivered to your door.
What are a few of your favorite local farms & producers?
I love Nichols for year-round produce, Klug for berries and greens, Seedling for berries, apples, and cider, Growing Power for greens, microgreens, and specialty lettuces. I'm a fan of any meat from Slagel - they're a legit all-family business and the relationship with them is something special. It's comforting to know that he had a hand in every part of the process - he raises, slaughters, and dry-ages the meat himself. My favorites are his lamb and beef.
How do you create dishes that are healthy but still so delicious?
I choose the best quality, nutrient-rich ingredients. If you're using the good stuff, the flavor is more pronounced and you don't need to add as much to make it taste great. To cover the four bases of flavor profile, I use olive oil instead of butter, a lot of fresh herbs, honey instead of sugar, and fresh citrus.
Tell us about your creative process with the current menu.
Kale is a super under-utilized ingredient because people see it as something they just eat to be healthy but doesn't taste good. I wanted to find a way to make it palatable for anybody - actually enjoyable by adding interesting flavor profiles to make it exciting. I chose lightly smoked cherries to go with the savory aspect of pumpernickel crumbs and pickled parsnips to add an acid component. The honey fennel vinaigrette adds acid as well, but also brings out the sweetness of the kale and cherries. I basically took familiar ingredients that people love and introduced new and different flavor profiles to excite your palate for that one perfect bite.
My idea behind the chicken was a play on chicken and grits. Normally that means fried or barbequed chicken and grits that are full of cream and butter. You don't need to add all that fat to polenta if you cook it in a court-bouillon, which is basically just seasoned water - I add mire poix, aromatics, lemon, honey, salt, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorn. It still comes through as really flavorful, but you omit all the unnecessary fat components that make it unhealthy. I see it as a new approach to classic French cooking. Freebird chicken is so flavorful to begin with that a simple brine, seasoning, and pan sear is all you need. I used malbec wine roasted onions because the red wine ties into the chicken jus and brings out the natural sweetness of the onions. Mint pistou brightens the finish.
The shortrib is my healthy take on steak and potatoes. From start to finish, it's an 18 hour process - I start by searing it, then I braise it slowly in beef stock with a red wine reduction, mire poix, fresh herbs and aromatics for 5-7 hours. I then press it overnight to remove the excess fat. The result is tender, melt in your mouth beef that reheats beautifully. Celery root is one of my favorite pairings with beef - it's starchy and hearty, but fresh instead of the flat starch you get when you just use potatoes. The celery in the dish builds on that and adds a mellow burst of flavor and crunch. The knob onion tops were left over from the malbec wine roasted onions in the chicken dish and I initially tried them out in the dish in an effort to avoid waste. I feel like someone took the time to grow those onions and I didn't want to just throw them away - turns out they rounded the dish out beautifully. I hate walnuts, but they're full of healthy fats, so I added baking spices, cumin, and paprika to make them delicious, adding a sweet, savory component to complete the dish.
People are timid about cooking cauliflower - but I've found the darker, the better. Carmelizing the natural sugars brings out a depth of flavor - bitterness from the char, sweetness from the carmelization. I'm all about utilizing the ingredient to it's maximum potential and that's what I've done with the cauliflower steak. Grilled radicchio gives a nice crunch and adds more bitterness to counter the sweetness of the snap peas and pea shoots that round out the dish. I came up with the pistachio jus because I thought it'd be awesome if vegans could have the same experience you would with a meat jus - it ties the dish together so beautifully. When I first tried it out, I got so excited about it. Pistachios are super healthy, but making them into a jus adds a creamy, rich, salty fattiness even though it's really a very light dish.
What's your favorite in-season ingredient right now and how do you like to use it?
Strawberries! I will literally use them for anything - under-ripened for pickling, ripe in vinaigrettes, sweet or savory purees, over-ripe is great for jam. I love strawberry ice cream. It's one of my very favorite ingredients to use in cocktails because of it's versatility. Mindy [Segal] showed me all of the crazy things you could do with strawberries and made me love them even more.