Young, talented chefs usually like to set down roots in a big city like New York, Chicago or somewhere on the west coast. You wouldn’t expect to find such chefs in Nebraska, home of beef and such. We were pleasantly surprised such gastronomic pleasures that awaited in the cities of Omaha and Lincoln. Here are three chefs you’ll want to keep your eye on.
Clayton Chapman (28) at The Grey Plume – Omaha
Chef-driven restaurants are not only big in big cities, but small ones too. Clayton Chapman, a Nebraska native, went to culinary school in Chicago, but was clever to round out his culinary education with some time spent tooling around Europe.
An eight course tasting menu left us ready to slip into a delightful culinary coma. A Spaghetti Squash Galette with pastrami,leeks, kale and pomegranate, was an unexpected, yet winning dish. An infusion of fruit in this and many of the dishes was surprising and pleasurable like the persimmon in the scallops.
Besides the delightful taste, the presentation of each dish at The Grey Plume is like a work of art. Although the wine list is something to behold – don’t miss out on craft cocktails like the Les Paul, with scallion vodka and celery sour.
Paul Kulik (40) at Le Bouillon – Omaha
Chef Kulik gives his interpretation of French comfort food at Le Bouillon in the Old Market in Omaha. Located in a converted fruit and vegetable warehouse, Le Bouillon is an open, yet seemingly intmate restaurant. Kulik sourcing from local producers, marries upscale French cuisine with comfort food.
With degrees in Physics and French (Good Eats French style anyone?), Kulik is a self taught chef and has worked in kitchens in Berlin, Paris, Chicago and Wasington DC. In Chicago, it was at James Beard award-winning Avec. Not surprisingly, he’s become one of the hottest chefs in Omaha.
John Benton (25) at Venue – Lincoln
Perhaps the most enthusiastic of all chefs we encountered on our four-day around Nebraska journey was Chef John Benton. Venuue Restaurant, located in an unassuming strip mall in Lincoln is home to a remarkable array of dishes. On a bustling Saturday night in the throngs of the holiday party season, Benton still found time to pop in with each dish served to explain each plate.
Teasing us with a duck fat fried popcorn, he definitely piqued our appetites. One of the signatures of the Chef Benton is his dry aging process that he does in house. Our steak, with a peppercorn sauce, was the stuff dreams are made of, only made better by the addition of a side of delicious bone marrow.
Disclosure: Our trip to Nebraska was sponsored by the Nebraska Tourism Commission. But the opinions expressed are 100 percent our own.