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Chicago Gourmet - bio: Kendal Duque
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Kendal Duque

American Junkie

Kendal's impressive career in the culinary field started 14 years ago when he joined the team of celebrity Chef Julian Serrano at MASA's restaurant in San Francisco and PICASSO at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  His first kitchen experience with this talented Spanish chef taught Kendal modesty and hard work. The kitchen was rigorous, but filled with team spirit and joy.

Kendal’s first experience in the Chicago restaurant scene was in 1998, when he joined the brigade of Jean Joho at the Everest Room. Here he continued his exploration and refinement of French kitchen technique. Kendal then was on the opening team at Rick Tramonto’s, TRU. It was here that he learned organization, creative freedom, and the experience that any achievement was possible in the restaurant world.
Inspired by this opportunity, Kendal spent a summer in Paris staging at several Michelin starred restaurants and making his move to New York City to work in one of the toughest chef driven kitchens in Manhattan under Chef Rocco DiSpirito at Union Pacific. In DiSpirito's kitchen, Kendal worked with the latest cooking techniques and global ingredients, to prepare aggressive, flavor-driven dishes.
It was with that vigor that Kendal returned to Chicago to work with Sandro Gamba of NoMI in the Park Hyatt, where he learned to prepare dishes with subtle elegance while executing modern flair.
As Chef de Cuisine at the Union League Club of Chicago, Kendal revamped the feature restaurant. His unique talents resulted increasing the club’s restaurant business, therefore creating a buzz as one of the city’s best private destination restaurants. The Union League Club has the designation of the number two private club in the United States.
Kendal conceived and opened Sepia restaurant with partner Emmanuel Nony in the summer of 2007. The restaurant opened to critical acclaim and won many awards and accolades, shortly after opening, including the following: Best New Chef (Chicago Magazine ‘08); Best New Restaurant (Time Out Magazine ’08); James Beard Semi-Finalist Great Lakes Region ( 2 years in a row ’08, ’09); Gayot’s Guide Ten Best New Restaurants in the U.S. (’08); and many more. The restaurant is a financial success despite the financial climate. It paid out its first dividend to the investors within the first year and continues to grow strong, as business has surpassed financial projections.
In 2010, Kendal joined Mainstay Hospitality as Executive Chef/Partner. At the Chicago Firehouse, Kendal retooled the dated steakhouse menu. He not only upgraded the quality of ingredients used, but added dishes that changed the perception of the established clientele from what a Chicago steakhouse menu is, to what it can and should be. These changes resulted in a significant increase, of $500K, in both private event and dining room sales. In 2011, The Chicago Firehouse brought in the highest revenues of its 10-year history.

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