WEST LOOP — Lamar Moore is a man who loves a good challenge, and while his latest one as executive chef of Eleven Eleven will pit him against other celebrities of the local culinary scene, the Beverly native remains unbothered.
Moore recently joined the team after stints at Smoke Daddy, The Swill Inn and the Bugsy and Meyers Steakhouse at Flamingo Las Vegas, a position he won after defeating other contestants on Food Network’s “Vegas Chef Prizefight.” He now hopes to share his passion for food with diners at Eleven|Eleven, 1111 W. Lake St.
“Both of my grandmothers cooked for a lot of people who couldn’t cook for themselves, and there was always a smile of their faces and ours,” said Moore, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. “And when they saw the smiles on our faces it made them want to cook for us, and it made my brothers and I appreciate the Sunday dinners, and the Sunday brunches.”
Moore remembers the pride he felt when he made his first batch of pancakes, fluffed to perfection. His mom was sold. He’d regularly spend Sunday mornings hard at work, getting the batter just right — “the key is to not over-mix,” he cautioned — saving occasions like Mother’s Day for his special banana pancakes.
To be a chef was the dream, but finding the money for school was a challenge. Moore’s mother took out student loans so that he could attend Le Cordon Bleu, an experience for which he is grateful, even if he did spend some of it avoiding thieves attempting to take his knife set on his way home. Occasionally he’d spend his free time watching Julia Child and Emeril Lagasse, not knowing that years later he’d be on TV himself, competing for the chance to run his own kitchen on the Vegas Strip.
“Back when I was growing up, cooking shows were about instruction, about teaching you how to cook. Now, it’s more competition-driven and vigorous fighting on TV and everything else,” said the Von Steuben grad, who also appeared on “Chopped” and “Beat Bobby Flay.”
“I tell people all the time that TV chefs and restaurant chefs are very different. You use your talents to compete on TV, but when you’re in the kitchen you’re not necessarily competing against other people, but you kind of are, to a degree. You’re also looking to put food on the table and be profitable,” added Moore.
To that end, the chef has already revamped the menu at the West Loop eatery, bringing a bit of southern flair to his the modern American menu; he’s added a pan-roasted halibut with English pea risotto, preserved lemon and herbs, along with shrimp and grits (his spin involves mascarpone, Anson Mills grits, and tiger shrimp in a rich étouffée with chicken sausage and scallions). And, as a nod to his grandmother, buttermilk biscuits with house-made jam are now on the brunch menu.
With the city reopening after the pandemic restrictions, the restaurant is taking a “slow approach” as it works on rebuilding their staff, said Moore. “We’re pacing ourselves.”
Eleven|Eleven is open 4-10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, with an 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.Sunday brunch.
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